In a Washington Post column, George Will questions the constitutionality of a recent vote in the House of Representatives to give delegates from Washington, D.C. and territories, such as American Samoa, the same right to vote in House committees as Congressmen. He points out the absurdity of giving the delegate from Samoa, which has only 58,000 residents, the same vote in committee (where most important House decisions are made) as the Congressman from Montana, who represents 944,000 people.
Similar arguments can be made against recent proposals to give the District of Columbia a Congressman and two Senators.
The District of Columbia has fewer voters than all 50 states, and fewer people living in it than 49 of the 50 states (and in a few years, based on current population trends, it will have fewer people than all 50 states).
Why should the District, which has less than 0.2 percent of the nation’s population, receive nearly 2 percent of the Senate (that is, 2 senators out of 102?)?
That’s 10 times what it would be entitled to based on population alone. But that would be the effect of giving the District two senators.
It is already unfair that underpopulated states like Wyoming and Vermont receive just as many senators (two senators each) as populous states like California and Texas. But that inequity, unfortunately, can’t be changed, since the Constitution contains a provision that specifically forbids amending the Constitution to reduce a state’s representation in the Senate.
But the District is not a state, so America doesn’t have to put up with that unfair result with respect to the District. Indeed, it doesn’t have to give D.C. any senators at all. (The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a lawsuit claiming that D.C. residents are constitutionally entitled to congressional representation).
A stronger argument could be made that as a matter of fairness, District residents should receive a representative in the House, even if the Constitution does not itself guarantee them any such right.
But even that is arguable. The District has 400,000 fewer people than Montana, which only has one representative in the House. The District’s population, just over 500,000, is far smaller than the population of the typical House district, which is nearly 700,000.
Why should the District also receive one representative, when its population is similar to cities like Las Vegas and El Paso, which don’t even have a representative all to themselves, and have to share their representatives with surrounding suburbs?
That can’t be justified by glib references to taxation without representation.