Meet D.C.'s Newest Voting Rights Foe

Chaffetz opposes giving DC a vote in House

A newly elected Utah congressman said he opposes a plan that would give Utah a fourth seat in the House and add a seat for the District of Columbia.

Republican Jason Chaffetz, who is breaking with the rest of the state's delegation, said Monday he's opposed to the bill because he believes giving Washington, D.C. full voting rights in the House is unconstitutional.

The proposal to expand the House from 435 to 437 seats is designed as a compromise because conservative Utah would likely elect a Republican to the new seat, while District voters would almost certainly choose a Democrat.

Utah lost out on a fourth seat to North Carolina following the 2000 Census because overseas missionaries were not counted. If Utah would have had an extra 80 people, it would have won the additional seat.

"While I am in favor of Utah gaining a fourth seat, we should not do so at the expense of the principles of the Constitution," Chaffetz said.

The House passed the compromise bill in 2007, but the bill was blocked in the Senate and didn't have the votes needed to overcome a filibuster. Since then, Democrats have taken over the majority in both the House and Senate. President-elect Barack Obama co-sponsored the bill in the Senate last year and Washington, D.C.'s delegate in the House, Eleanor Holmes Norton, said she wants to bring the bill up again for a Feb. 12 vote.

"I recognize that taxation without representation is fundamentally unfair. But what should we do? I believe it is possible to give residents of Washington, D.C. a voice without violating the Constitution," Chaffetz said.

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Chaffetz proposes returning residential areas of Washington, D.C. to Maryland.

"Giving Maryland an additional seat in the House of Representatives raises no constitutional questions and gives D.C. residents the representation they seek," he said.

Because of rapid population growth, Utah is almost assured of gaining a fourth seat in Congress following the 2010 census. It is unclear whether ceding Washington's residential areas to Maryland would result in that state gaining a ninth seat.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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