District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment


Section 1.      For purposes of representation in the Congress, election of the President and Vice President, and article V of the Constitution, the District constituting the seat of government of the United States shall be treated as though it were a State.

Section 2.      The exercise of the rights and powers conferred under this article shall be by the people of the District constituting the seat of government, and as shall be provided by the Congress.

Section 3.      The Twenty-Third Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed

Section 4.      This article shall be inoperative, unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three- fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.


The proposed DC Voting Rights Amendment to the US Constitution came before Congress on a wave of momentum from the successes of the civil rights movement and enactment of Home Rule for the District of Columbia. Southern members of Congress, in particular, needed an issue to appeal to the minority voters in their home districts and states, and the Voting Rights Amendment became a convenient vehicle for their appeal.  South Carolina Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond, a staunch segregationist just three decades earlier, championed the Amendment’s passage on the floor of the US Senate.

California Democratic Congressman Don Edwards introduced the Amendment, known officially as Joint Resolution 554, in the 95th Congress.  The US House of Representatives passed it on March 2, 1978, by a 289–127 vote, with 18 members not voting.  The Senate approved the Amendment on August 22, 1978, by a 67–32 vote, with only one Senator not voting. The DC Voting Rights Amendment immediately went out to state legislatures for ratification. Three-fourths (38) of the states needed to ratify the Amendment within seven years of its passage by Congress for the proposed Amendment to become part of the Constitution.  During those seven years, the District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment received the approval of only 16 states, and its adoption failed.  Those 16 states were:

New Jersey on September 11, 1978

Michigan on December 13, 1978

Ohio on December 21, 1978

Minnesota on March 19, 1979

Massachusetts on March 19, 1979

Connecticut  on April 11, 1979

Wisconsin on November 1, 1979

Maryland on March 19, 1980

Hawaii on April 17, 1980

Oregon on July 6, 1981

Maine on February 16, 1983

West Virginia on February 23, 1983

Rhode Island on May 13, 1983

Iowa on January 19, 1984

Louisiana on June 24, 1984

Delaware on June 28, 1984

Supporters of the Amendment never mounted a major nationwide push to win ratification.  The initial strategy by supporters, as espoused by then-DC Congressional Delegate Walter Fauntroy, called for launching a nationwide lobbying effort once 18 states had ratified the Amendment.  That threshold was never achieved, and supporters realized too late that a new strategy was needed.  The Amendment died for lack of ratification on Aug. 22, 1985.