Court Battles

Supreme Court declines to hear dispute over DC representation in Congress

The Supreme Court on Monday turned away an appeal by Washington, D.C., residents over their lack of voting rights in Congress.

The justices’ move affirmed a lower court ruling that held that D.C. residents are not entitled to voting representation in the U.S. House.

In a brief unsigned order Monday, the justices indicated their ruling was based on a Supreme Court decision from more than two decades ago that found that Washingtonians do not have a constitutional right to a vote in Congress.

Two of the court’s more conservatives justices — Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch — indicated they would have dismissed the appeal based on their view that the court lacked jurisdiction over the dispute.

D.C. has a delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who is not authorized to vote on legislation on the House floor.

She told The Hill in a statement that she is “deeply disappointed” by the court’s decision, but argued that the ruling “has no bearing on D.C. statehood, which would give D.C. residents not only voting representation in Congress but full control over their local affairs.”

“In 2016, D.C. residents voted overwhelmingly for statehood, the House has twice passed my D.C. statehood bill since June 2020, we have record support for D.C. statehood in the Senate and we have never been closer to D.C. statehood,” she added.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) did not respond to a request for comment.

The case arose in 2018 when a group of D.C. residents challenged the District’s nonvoting status. They pointed to Americans living overseas who are able to vote despite not being state residents as evidence of District residents’ unequal treatment under law.

In March 2020, a three-judge district court panel ruled against the D.C. residents in a 59-page opinion that sounded a note of reluctance.

“We recognize that District residents’ lack of the congressional franchise is viewed by many, even most, as deeply unjust, and we have given each aspect of Plaintiffs’ claims most serious consideration, but our ruling today is compelled by precedent and by the Constitution itself,” the panel’s opinion reads.

The D.C. residents’ appeal to the Supreme Court was opposed by both the Trump and Biden administrations.

The push for D.C. statehood has received support in the House but has failed to generate serious traction in the Senate.

Updated at 12:22 p.m.

Tags Clarence Thomas Eleanor Holmes Norton Muriel Bowser Neil Gorsuch Supreme Court Washington Washington Washington DC
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