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Voting Rights For D.C. Get 82% Backing

Advocates to Release Nationwide Survey

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 25, 2005; Page B01

A group advocating voting rights for the District plans to release a nationwide survey today showing that eight in 10 Americans support congressional voting representation for the city.

DC Vote, an advocacy group founded in 1998, will meet today with Washington philanthropic organizations to seek financial support for a national media campaign. The group has raised $700,000 toward a $1 million goal for the campaign, which is aimed at winning full representation in Congress for the District. The District now elects only a House delegate, who is permitted to vote in committees but not on the floor.

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DC Vote's national survey of 1,007 people found that a majority of respondents were unaware of the District's status. For example, 78 percent thought that D.C. residents have voting rights in Congress equal to those of residents of the 50 states.

The survey "certainly gives us a sense of the awareness, or lack thereof, outside the D.C. area and reinforces what we all know in our guts, which is, once people know about D.C.'s status, they support full voting representation for the District," said Ilir Zherka, executive director of DC Vote.

The $15,000 poll was conducted by KRC Research, a nonpartisan opinion research firm, from Jan. 14 to 16 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. KRC Senior Vice President Mark David Richards said he believed that Americans' support for District voting rights is higher because of the war in Iraq and the U.S.-backed election Sunday to select a national legislature in Iraq.

"The current war environment and discussion about spreading democracy around the world has an influence on people's thoughts when you ask them whether or not people in the U.S. capital should have voting rights," Richards said.

About 82 percent of survey respondents said the nearly 600,000 D.C. residents should have equal voting rights, after being told that District residents serve in the military and pay local and federal taxes but have no voting representative in the House or Senate. Support was strong among self-identified Republicans (77 percent) and Democrats (87 percent).

Thirteen percent said D.C. should not have full voting rights, and 5 percent said they did not know. Of those who opposed equal voting rights, 28 percent favored granting the District at least a vote in the House.

Richards acknowledged that the poll did not pose any counter-argument against representation, which is not provided for in the U.S. Constitution, and that the question's wording may have influenced the responses. But he said the percentage of Americans supporting equal representation has increased from 72 percent in 2000, when he conducted a survey for Bisconti Research Inc.

The new results are in line with those of earlier surveys. In 1987, a national survey by President Ronald Reagan's pollster, Richard Wirthlin, found that 78 percent backed equal voting rights for the District and that 52 percent supported a bill to grant D.C. statehood. In that survey, three-fourths thought that the District was fully represented in Congress, and about one-fourth believed that the District was a state.

In 1978, the ABC News-Lou Harris Poll found that 57 percent of Americans nationwide favored a pending constitutional amendment to give the District two votes in the Senate and one vote in the House and that 32 percent opposed it. Congress passed the amendment, but it expired in August 1985 without winning ratification by the necessary 38 states.

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