Voting Rights for the District of Columbia

Submitted by Temple Sinai, Washington, DC; Temple Micah, Washington, DC; Washington Hebrew Congregation, DC; Temple Shalom, Chevy Chase, MD; and Temple Emanuel, Kensington, MD; to the 68th Union for Reform Judaism General Assembly


Having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which we must live is critical to the rights of all citizens. However, the citizens of the District of Columbia lack this most basic right to full representation in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

This troubling issue has been the subject of court cases and legislation in recent years. A three-judge federal court in the District of Columbia decided (2-1) that the Constitution of the United States does not require the citizens of the District to be given voting representation in Congress. This decision was later affirmed by the Supreme Court in Alexander v. Daley; however the Alexander decision clarified that either congressional action or a constitutional amendment could provide for such representation.

The legislative authority to provide representation (whether in the House of Representatives, the Senate or both) appears to be well established. There are a number of proposals currently in various stages of consideration to address the issue of voting rights for the citizens of D.C. While the contours of such legislation have yet to be decided, there does appear to be some momentum building to address the current situation, which is so fundamentally unfair.

As Jews, so long disenfranchised members of society, we are well aware of the importance of democratic representation. In the Book of Numbers, we learn of God's instructions to Moses to gather 70 elders of Israel to serve as representatives of the people (Numbers 11:16-25). Rabbi Yitzhak taught, "A ruler is not to be appointed until the community is first consulted" (Babylonian Talmud, B'rachot 55a). Government officials must be accountable to the citizens they represent.

It is time for our Movement to take a position in favor of full voting rights for the citizens of D.C., including representation in both the House and Senate, as we have unfailingly championed other causes of social justice.

Therefore , the Union for Reform Judaism resolves to:

1. Support the enactment of legislation that will provide full voting rights for the citizens of the District of Columbia, including representation in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate;

2. Support incremental legislation that will provide some representation in the House or Senate as an interim step toward full voting rights; and

3. Call upon Union congregations to create awareness of this issue and to seek support of their members of Congress for legislation providing for voting rights for the citizens of the District of Columbia.