Voting Rights Bill Stalled in Favor of Gun Laws

Voting rights advocates regroup

WASHINGTON -- Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and House supporters of D.C. voting rights are holding the D.C. House Voting Rights Act because of gun-related amendments, the Washington City Paper reported.

Norton and others tried to get the gun amendment removed from the voting rights bill with no luck. No compromises were deemed satisfactory.

The decision followed a Sunday conference call with voting rights advocates including the D.C. vote coalition.

"The conference call discussed in detail all of the options available to us at this time, none of which would result in the elimination of the Ensign amendment, as well as the split in opinion in the city about attaching a bill that carries a danger to public safety and elimination of the city’s authority over gun legislation," Norton wrote in a Tuesday morning statement to voting rights advocates in Congress and D.C. government. "All agreed that there were good reasons to wait for now."

A statement from D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray expressed voting rights supporters' disappointment following optimism earlier this year that D.C. would finally get a vote in the House now that President Barack Obama is in the White House and the Democrats control Congress. But he agreed that giving up precious gun laws was too great a sacrifice.

"The onerous and dangerous nature of the Ensign amendment, which would remove major provisions of the District's gun control legislation and most importantly eliminate the authority of the Council to legislate in this area in the future, perhaps makes this delay a necessary step for now," Gray said. "We will continue our efforts to enfranchise the citizens of the District of Columbia while not having to pay that heavy price."

The voting rights bill would have given one House seat to liberal D.C. and one balancing seat to conservative Utah.

Although the District has elected a representative since the 1970s, that House delegate -- Norton -- can only vote in committees.

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