At 11:30 a.m. last Thursday, a volunteer, charged with keeping tabs on the coming House vote on congressional voting representation for the District of Columbia, called the office of D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy and reported that a member of the New York delegation was wavering.
Another volunteer quickly checked the comprehensivie files of Self-Determination for D.C., the coalition that plotted strategy for the measure. THe files indicated that a lobbyist for the Westinghouse Electric Corp. might be able to influence the wavering representative.
The sympathetic lobbyist, Thomas A. Hart, was contacted, and Hart in turn contacted the congressman.
A few minutes later, the New York member cast one of the "yeas" in a 289-to-127 decision that gave the proposal 11 votes more han the two-thirds majority required for passage.
D.C. residents' dram of having a vote, not just a voice, in Congress first reched the House floor two years ago but fell 45 votes shy of the two-thirds majority required to pass a constitutional amendmnet.
Out of that defeat came the plan for the massive lobbying effort that succeeded last week.
Members of the coalition studied the 229-to-181 vote of two years ago and discussed which dissenting members they thought might change their positions. Among factors they considered were the number of registered black voters in a member's home area, how a member had voted on home rule for Washington and how outspoken or neutral a member had been during the debate about voting representation.
"We didn't have enough resources to go after every member," coalition member Elena Hess recalled, "so we established a rating system and assigned every member a number from one to five.
The number "one" denoted a yes vote in 1976; "two" meant as freshman pledged to vote yes or one whose predecessor had voted yes, threes were possible converts; fours were unlikely, and fives meant "don't bother," Hess said.
THe system produced a target list of 115 members, hat comprised a few "two" and "fours" and preponderance of "threes".
Voulunteers were recruited from the ranks of 60 local organizations associated with the coalition - League of Women Voters, Common Cause, Delta Sigma Theta, a black sorority, and East of the River Health Association in Anacostia - to make telephone calls to the home districts of targeted members of Congress.
The House Subcommittee on Constitutional and Civil Rights held hearings on the proposal last summer, and volunteers then began going to the downton headquarters of Common Cause one Sunday each month to make long-distance telephone calls. They used the organization's four wide-area telephone service (WATS) lines.
The calls went to persons identified as "probably supportive" of the proposal because of their connection with one of the 51 national organizations associated with the coalition's national section.
The callers found remarkable interest in the issue, according to Herr, who said that after 6,000 calls, only 3 negative responses were recorded. "Many people are idealistic, especially when it doesn't affect their pocketbooks," she said.
The people called were urged to call or write their congressional representatives to urge support for D.C. voting representation in Congress.
At first, the calls were concentrated in ares represented by members of the subcommittee and then in areas of members of the full House Judiciary Committee.
As the resolutuin trundled through the committee process, the phone-athon was expanded to include all 115 congressional districts on the coalition's target list.
Two of those called were Sue Kirsch of Grand Rapids, Mich., and Barbara Halweg of Minneapolis.
After her call, Kirsch said she wrote a "time for action" letter to her congressman, Rep. Harold S. Sawyer (R-Mich.) on "official stationery" of the local League of Women Voters chapter, of which she is president.
"I didn't hear back from him," she said. But Sawyer, who succeeded Gerald Ford in the House, responded with a yes vote.
Halweg, a housewife and volunteer who was called as member of the American Association of University Women, said she telephoned the area office of Rep. Bill Frenzel (R-Minn,) and was assured that her view would be "passed on" to the congressman.
Frenzel, who like Sawyer was rated as a "three" on the coalition scale, also voted Thursday in favor of the resolution.
An aide to Frenzel acknowledged that he had been lobbied by a wide variety of individuals and groups, including Washington churches, a Jewish group from Minneapolis, and "letter from the League of Women Voters."
While local volunteers made telephine calls, professional lobbyists for unions, churches, political groups and even a few corporations, including Westinghouse, Mobil Oil and the gas industry, applied the pressure and prestige of their organizations to the cause of voting representation for residents of the nation's capital.
The Common Cause commitment took the form of permitting one of its lobbyists, Richard W. Clark, to take on the issue as part of his regular assignment.
Clark, 36, came to Washington as a National Urban fellow on 1969, and had "my eyes opened to what was not happening" in behalf of the city while he worked as a special assistant to then City Council Chairman Gilbert Hahn.
Clark is chairman of Self-Determination for D.C.'s national coalition and co-equal in the movement with Sterling Tucker, who is president of the metropolitan coalition, in addition to being the present City Council chairman.
Hess, who first worked as a volunteer in the early 1970s and then became a part-time staff member, began working full-time as the coalition's only paid employee in January.
The coalition was formed in 1971, shortly after Democrat Fauntroy was elected as the city's nonvoting House delegate. Hess said early supporters were Tucker, Fauntroy, Sen. Edward Brooke (R-Mass.) and Joseph Rauh of the American Civil Liberties Union.
In the early days, coalition members were split on whether to seek statehood, as championed by the late Julius Hobson, or just voting representation.
Fauntroy viewed statehood as "a financial disaster," Hess said, but City Council members found it difficult to oppose, because "it was like being against motherhood," Hess said.
But they finally agreed that a united front was most important, because division would permit opponents toa rgue that "they don't know what they want," Hess said.
"Sterling deserves more recongnition than he ever got. The coalition wouldn't have survived without him," Hess said
But because "everyone in D.C. is so partisan, the coalition was thought to be 'Tucker's thing,' and some other activists wouldn't join," Hess said. Adding to that feeling is the fact that Fauntory has endorsed Tucker's candidacy for mayor.
But in recent month, the various political factions began pulling together on behalf of the amendment.
Mayor Walter E. Washington's role included drumming up support at the 1976 Democratic National Convention and among black mayors throughout the country, an effort that resulted in "plenty of letters to congressmen, especially in the South," Hess said.
One factor lacking two years ago was the support of President Ford.
Rep. Don Edwards (D-Calif.), who helped draft the amendment and guided it through his subcommittee and the the Judiciary Committee, stressed the importance of an endorsement from President Carter.
With help from two longtime Senate supporters of the idea, Vice President Mondale and the late Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey (D-Minn.), a deluge of information and insistence on an endorsement hit Carter's staf.
The president announced his support in September and immediately put his staff to work on behalf of the amendment.
Fauntroy said Val Pinson of Carter's congressional liaison staff, Martha (Bunny) Mitchell of the White staff, and James Dyke of Mondale's staff "worked assiduously" on behalf of the amendment.
The White House endorsement came just in time to give impetus to consideration of the proposal by Edwards' subcommittee.
Nevertheless, Edwards proceeded cautiously, insisting on full hearings, with testimony from a wide range of witnesses, even though the subject had been explored at 22 hearings in previous years.
Several constitutional scholars testified, including Prof. Charles Alan Wright of the University of Texas Law School, who had been one of former president Nixon's constitutional advisers before the threatened impeachment hearings.
"The clear purpose (of the clause in the Constitution that says "no state without its consent shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate") . . . is not compromised by allowing the District of Columbia to have two senators any more than it is when a new state is admitted," Wright testified. That statement is expected to be given major attention as the legislative battleground moves to the Senate this spring.
The road that led to House passage last week was not paved entirely with scholarly pronouncements.