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The cherry blossoms aren’t the only things blooming early this year in Washington. Radical ideas have been blossoming in the D.C. City Council, too—ideas that will both disenfranchise and endanger the city’s citizens.
The Council’s radical rewrite of D.C’s criminal code has received a lot of attention—and rightfully so. Crime is so bad in the District right now, robbers are demanding the coats off of their victims’ backs. Seemingly no one is safe. Rep. Angie Craig was literally assaulted in her apartment building on the way to vote on whether to override the Council’s irresponsible criminal code revisions that will give criminals a get-out-of-jail free card. (Needless to say, she voted to override it).
Yet, the D.C. Council and other D.C. statehood activists have decried these override attempts as an inappropriate intrusion on D.C.’s local autonomy. They say if local citizens don’t like the law, they can kick them out of office.
Never mind the Constitution explicitly gives Congress the responsibility of overseeing the nation’s capital to ensure that local, partisan politics don’t interfere with or threaten the work of Congress.
SENATE DEMS OVERWHELMINGLY VOTE WITH GOP TO OVERTURN CONTROVERSIAL DC CRIME LAW
The Council apologists conveniently ignore that the Council passed another bill that would disenfranchise and dilute the vote of every citizen living within the District—making it harder to kick the reckless members out of office.
Late last year, the Council passed a bill allowing any adult who had resided within the District for 30 days to vote in the District’s local elections. We’ve written about other cities, like San Francisco and New York, which have tried something similar. But even their attempts weren’t so brazen.
The Washington Post’s editorial board called the bill a “bad idea” because “[v]oting is a foundational right of citizenship.” It explained that “[t]here’s noting in this measure to prevent employees at embassies of governments that are openly hostile to the United States from casting ballots.”
Imagine: Russian and Chinese embassy staff members – as well as “reporters” at the bureaus of Pravda and The People’s Daily – could carpool to cast votes in local elections in our nation’s capital—laughing all the way! It’s absurd and embarrassing and downright dangerous.
Not to worry, though, illegal aliens and foreign exchange students can likely vote too.
The Washington Post also candidly acknowledged that the “proposed law presents logistical nightmares that will require the Board of Elections to print separate ballots so that noncitizens don’t vote in federal races.” Good luck smoothly implementing that plan.
Fortunately, the House of Representatives voted to override this proposal along with D.C.’s new criminal-friendly code.
But the Senate’s been slower to move. Each chamber of Congress has 60 days to review any criminal justice-related bill from the D.C. Council but only 30 days to review all other bills.
Because of this, the D.C. Council preemptively declared on Feb. 23 that the alien voting bill had become law because the Senate had not acted quickly enough.
Not so fast though. It turns out that the House and the Senate received the bill at different times. The Senate Parliamentarian claims that while “the House received the bill Jan. 10, the Senate did not receive it until Jan. 30,” meaning that “the review period for the bill will end on March 14—or 30 days after the Senate received the bill.”
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It comes down to a dispute about whether transmittal by the Council or official notation in the Congressional Record triggers the clock. The Senate Parliamentarian says the latter controls, so the D.C. Council’s contrary, self-serving interpretation is irrelevant. Not to mention that these are legislative (not calendar) days, so weekends, holidays, and non-session days don’t count either.
While time is still short—and it’s likely difficult to get a disapproval resolution passed in that short time—the Senate should make disapproving this alien voting law a priority.
It’s Congress’s constitutional responsibility to oversee affairs in our nation’s capital. Members of the House have done their duty; now it’s time for senators to do theirs to protect the voting rights of the city’s citizens.
At a minimum, let’s hope that foreign diplomats don’t get carjacked on their way to cast ballots in our nation’s capital—though that’s no guarantee either.
Hans von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow and manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative in the Heritage Foundation’s Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.
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