IT'S DOWN TO THE WIRE in Annapolis: The constitutional amendment providing representation in Congress for the citizens of the District -- which has won the support of more than two-thirds of the U.S. House of Representatives, two-thirds of the U.S. Senate and a solid majority of the Maryland State Senate -- comes up for final consideration this week in the Maryland House of Delegates. It is here that ratification fell one vote short last week, and it is here to which Maryland's neighbors in the District now look anxiously for understanding and support. Not only is this vote important for all citizens who make their homes in the District, but it should be a matter of practical as well as moral consequence for Marylanders.

By now, most delegates in Annapolis have heard the philosophical arguments for ratification, which should transcend the narrower considerations of race, partisan politics and fears that the federal system will collapse somehow if taxation without representation is ended for the District. While the continued denial of elementary civil rights to District residents remains a fundamental issue, many delegates have come to recognize that the interests of Maryland's citizens are protected best when a good relationship exists between both governments. Gov. Harry R. Hughes, House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin and a majority of the legislators can appreciate the efforts of their counterparts in the new government of the District of Columbia to improve relations with Annapolis and to reach understandings about such controversial matters as taxes. They recognize, too, how this relationship could be jeopardized by D.C. statehood -- or how impractical and undesirable retrocession would be. Ratification of the amendment is a reasonable and just move in the best interests of both constituencies. It deserves the support of every thoughtful delegate in the House.