Thursday, November 4, 2010

Could the Tea Party Inadvertently Help DC Voting Rights?

Could the Tea Party's desire to repeal the 14th Amendment give a boost to DC voting rights?

Ratified in 1868, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution makes any baby born in the United States an American citizen. It was designed to ensure that former slaves were American citizens. Recently the 14th Amendment has become an issue with Republicans because it also makes babies born of illegal immigrants American citizens. The effort by the group, State Legislators for Legal Immigration, a coalition of state legislators seeks to negate the 14th Amendment by allowing states to deny birth certificates to children of illegal immigrants.  Many Tea Party members simply want the 14th Amendment repealed.

Amending the Constitution is a long, difficult process, and chances are that this proposal won't go anywhere.  But if it did go somewhere (and it's interesting and enlightening to speculate in politics) once an amendment is proposed, it opens the door to other amendments being proposed. Such as:
Section 1. For purposes of representation in the Congress, election of the President and Vice President, and article V of this Constitution, the District constituting the seat of government of the United States shall be treated as though it were a State.
Section 2. The exercise of the rights and powers conferred under this article shall be by the people of the District constituting the seat of government, and as shall be provided by the Congress.
Section 3. The twenty-third article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Section 4. This article shall be inoperative, unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.
That's the text of the proposed Amendment that would grant the District of Columbia's citizens full voting representation in Congress, which was introduced in 1978, and expired without being ratified in 1985.

A sustained, well-publicized effort to enact a constitution amendment to repeal the 14th Amendment would open up discussion about who should be a citizen. This could and should draw attention to the fact that some 600,000 people born and living in the United States don't share the same rights as all other Americans. Pushing for the repeal of the 14th Amendment. If there is such a debate, we should take full advantage of it and every time somebody says, "repeal the 14th Amendment" we should say, "but what about the 600,000 United States citizens who are still denied voting rights?"

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