The Problem and First Attempt:
Nearly 600,000 Americans here in our nation’s capital pay federal taxes, serve on juries, and defend our nation during times of war, but do not have voting representation in either chamber of Congress, or the authority to pass our own budgets without Congressional approval. While legislation has been introduced in Congress multiple times in the last decade to remedy this situation, no law has yet been passed. In 2007, JUFJ was very active in lobbying to pass a DC voting rights law, which ultimately did not have enough votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.
DC’s vibrant Jewish community, despite its strong involvement in civil life, is excluded from the basic American right of voting for its leaders. Our ancient texts remind us to ask the questions: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” (Pirkei Avot, 1:14). Representation for the District of Columbia is an issue that directly affects the DC Jewish community, and it is incumbent upon us to take action on our own behalf. In addition, we who are scholars, lawyers, and local leaders have a responsibility to champion this issue on behalf of the entire community. American Jews have a proud tradition of support for civil rights and social justice. The movement for DC voting rights is a continuation of the 150-year struggle to enfranchise all Americans.
As a member of the DC Vote coalition, Jews United for Justice reached out to synagogues, Hillels, and havurot in the District of Columbia. Together, we amplified the Jewish voice calling for the correction of this injustice.
Several successive attempts to pass a DC House Voting Rights Act have been made since 2007 but each has experienced significant opposition.