SUFFRAGISTS, rejoice: the convening of the 97th Congress has struck a blow -- albeit hardly a haymaker -- for democracy. In the House, quite apart from any musical chairs coming as a result of the new census figures, an additional seat has been added. For the first time, the more than 31,000 residents of American Samoa are being represented in the U.S. House in the manner to which Washingtonians have become accustomed -- by a none-voting delegate.
A hearty welcome and our sympathies, then, to Del. Fofo I. F. Sunia of Pago Pago, who has joined the voteless ranks of four other House-floor veterans enjoing most privileges of membership in Congress, including full franchises in committees. Besides Walter E. Fauntroy from the District, this special roll call lists Delegates Ron de Lugo of the Virgin Islands and Antonio Borja Won Pat of Guam, along with Resident Commissioner Baltasar Corrada from Puerto Rico. So, as analysts at Congressional Quarterly duly note, the House today is 0.228 percent larger than it was last year.
As our faithful well know, we do not consider such non-voting representation anywhere near adequate for the District. Among the five non-voting members, it is true that in terms of constituents Commissioner Corrada of Puerto Rico winds hands down, with a 1970 population of about 2.7 million. But, we hasten to add, the District of Columbia has some distinctive arguments of its own for full representation in Congress. There is a matter of taxation -- full federal income taxation, to be expensively specific -- without representation; the District chips in as much as many of the states do. This and other distinctions have, in fact, been recognized by Congress -- when more than two-thirds of each congressional chamber approved full representation for the District.
That approval, as residents here know all too well, requires the understanding and ratification by people in the states before it takes affect. At year's end, the number of state legislatures that had approved the District voting rights amendment was nine. That's woefully short of the 38 needed for ratification, but the campaign continues and the chief coalition at work on the project -- Self-Determination for D.C. -- is concentrating on 14 states in 1981. However the strongest possible support; for just as it took a heavy dose of patience for American Samoa to make its way to the House floor, it will take continued perserverance if the District is to succeed in its quest for what is right.