The Right to Vote


These two letters show both sides of an issue. The first letter is from an ACLU attorney, Fritz Mulhauser, responding to my attempt to sue Congress in DC Small Claims Court for “breach of contract” with us residents of the District of Columbia. The second was handed to me by an unnamed congressional staff member while I was selling Street Sense.

Here’s the first letter, which was written on ACLU letterhead:

“March 18, 2014
Dear Mr Minter:

We received the copy you sent of your letter to an official at the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law. You asked for help filing a lawsuit against Congress asking that the court give you the right to vote for U.S. Senators and a voting Representative in the House, and to allow you to run for those positions. You enclosed a complaint form for an action against the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House that you said had been rejected by the Small Claims Branch of the D.C. Superior Court.
Justice Black described the right to vote as fundamental in Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1 (1964). He wrote, ‘No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.’ We agree with all those who protest the tragedy that 600,000 people lack basic voting rights. The question is what are effective methods to address that fact.
Only Congress can change the limited representation of the District of Columbia, since the Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 17) gives them full authority over the District. An amendment in 1978 (requiring D.C. be ‘treated like a state’) failed to get support in the states, and a proposal to grant statehood has also failed. The courts will not tell Congress what to do — they have refused in many suits, see for example this story on an effort in 2000, http:\\

Thanks for your concern. Good luck with efforts perhaps to get the political branches to take the D.C. plight more seriously.

Fritz Mulhauser
Senior Staff Attorney”

Here’s the second communication on this issue, an unsigned hand-written note from a Congressional staffer:

“D.C. is not a state. The Constitution states that, ‘Representatives… shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this Union.’ (Article 1, Sec. 2)

The 17th Amendment also says there will be an election of ‘two Senators from each State.’ Given that D.C. is not a state, it would be unconstitutional to grant D.C. Congressional voting rights.

Would you like Puerto Rico + Guam to vote as well???

By living in D.C., you have voluntarily waived your ‘right to vote’. Be happy with your 3 electoral votes or move 8 miles in either direction.”

information about New Signature, a Washington DC tech solutions and consulting firm


email updates

We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.