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The District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment was a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution which would give the District of Columbiamarker, full representation in the United States Congress, full representation in the Electoral College system, and full participation in the process by which the constitution is amended.

The Voting Rights Amendment was passed by Congress on August 22, 1978, but failed to be ratified by 38 states prior to its expiration on August 22, 1985.


Section 1. For purposes of representation in the Congress, election of the President and Vice President, and article V of this Constitution, the District constituting the seat of government of the United States shall be treated as though it were a State.

Section 2. The exercise of the rights and powers conferred under this article shall be by the people of the District constituting the seat of government, and as shall be provided by the Congress.

Section 3. The twenty-third article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Section 4. This article shall be inoperative, unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.


Representative Don Edwards proposed House Joint Resolution 554 in the 95th Congress. It was approved by the United States House of Representatives on March 2, 1978, by a 289-127 vote, with 18 "not voting". It was then approved by the United States Senate on August 22, 1978, by a 67-32 vote, with 1 "not voting". With that, the District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment was offered to the state legislatures for consideration. The Congress, via Section 4 of the proposed amendment, required ratification by three-fourths of the states to be completed within seven years following its passage by the Congress in order for it to become part of the Constitution.

On August 22, 1985, the District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment failed to be adopted because it had not been ratified by at least 38 state legislatures. It received 16 ratifications.

Effect of the Amendment had it been adopted

Had it been adopted, this proposed amendment would have repealed the Twenty-third Amendment. The Twenty-third Amendment does not allow the District of Columbia to have more electoral votes "than the least populous State," nor does it grant Washington, D.C.marker any role in the election of a President by the House of Representatives (or that of the Vice President in the Senate). In contrast, this proposed amendment would have given Washington, D.C. full representation in both houses of the Congress in addition to full participation in the Electoral College. The proposed amendment would have also allowed the Council of the District of Columbia, the Congress, or the people of Washington D.C. (depending on how this proposed amendment would have been interpreted) to decide whether to ratify any proposed amendment to the Constitution, or to apply to the Congress for a convention to propose amendments to the United States Constitution, just as a State's legislature can pursuant to the Constitutional amendment process.

The amendment would not have made Washington, D.C. a state and would not have affected the Congress's authority over Washington, D.C.

Response of the state legislatures

Requiring the approvals of lawmakers in at least 38 of the 50 states, the District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment was ratified by the legislatures of only the following 16 states:

  1. New Jerseymarker on September 11, 1978
  2. Michiganmarker on December 13, 1978
  3. Ohiomarker on December 21, 1978
  4. Minnesotamarker on March 19, 1979
  5. Massachusettsmarker on March 19, 1979
  6. Connecticutmarker on April 11, 1979
  7. Wisconsinmarker on November 1, 1979
  8. Marylandmarker on March 19, 1980
  9. Hawaiimarker on April 17, 1980
  10. Oregonmarker on July 6, 1981
  11. Mainemarker on February 16, 1983
  12. West Virginiamarker on February 23, 1983
  13. Rhode Islandmarker on May 13, 1983
  14. Iowamarker on January 19, 1984
  15. Louisianamarker on June 24, 1984
  16. Delawaremarker on June 28, 1984

See also


  1. 124 Congressional Record 5272-5273
  2. 124 Congressional Record 27260
  3. In Dillon v. Gloss, , the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the imposition of time limits on ratification.

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