The District may face an uphill fight to secure voting rights in the House this Congress, but D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) is hoping to win a rhetorical victory next month -- a mention of the issue in President Obama's State of the Union address.
Norton wrote a letter to Obama on Thursday asking him to "reiterate your support for voting rights and greater democracy for the citizens who live in the nation's capital, in keeping with your co-sponsorship of the bill when you were in the Senate." Referencing the issue, Norton added, would help "to maintain the terrific momentum we achieved in the voting rights struggle in anticipation of regaining the House and maintaining the Senate in the 2012 elections."
Norton's tactic is not a new one. She wrote a similar letter to Obama in January 2010 at the urging of local activists, in which she noted that "[t]he stars are surely aligned" for voting rights advocates to succeed this year. Obama did not mention the issue in his 2010 speech, nor did he bring it up in his February 2009 address to a joint session of Congress.
House voting rights for D.C. wasn't a popular topic for previous presidents, either. The lone reference to the subject appears to have come in President Jimmy Carter's January 1981 address -- which was actually a written message, delivered just days before he left office. At the time, not enough states had ratified a proposed constitutional amendment granting the District a House vote, and Carter said, "It is my hope that this inequity will be rectified."
Might Obama decide to be the first president to deliver such a plea in person? We'll find out in three weeks.