November 3, 2012
On Nov. 3, 1964, residents of the District of Columbia cast their first ballots in an election. Until the ratification of the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States on March 29, 1961, D.C. residents could not vote.
The amendment apportioned Electoral College votes equal to the votes in the least populous state, which is currently Wyoming with 568,000 residents, the District has about 620,000. They each get three electors.
Article One, Section 8 of the Constitution established a ten miles square District for the seat of the United States government that would be subject exclusively to the Legislation of Congress. In 1790, Maryland and Virginia ceded the land to form the District, though the Virginia land was returned to that state’s control (retrocession) in 1847 when Alexandria needed capital investments for its port. No public buildings were built on the Virginia side of the Potomac River after an amendment to the 1791 Residence Act limited their construction to the Maryland side of the river.
The U.S. government did not move to the District until 1800. Thomas Jefferson was the first president to occupy the White House. Congress passed the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801 dividing the District into two counties, Washington County on the Maryland side of the Potomac and Alexandria County on the Virginia side, and established courts in each county according to the laws of Maryland and Virginia.
The act chartered the City of Washington, whose mayor was appointed by the President.
The act also made transferred the residential status from the states to the District and made them ineligible to vote in state and federal elections.
In 1871, Congress combined the cities of Washington and Georgetown and Washington County into a unified District government.
In 1973, Congress passed a District of Columbia Home Rule Act that established a new District Charter and provided for an elected government. Since the 1973 act, District residents have been able to elect a mayor and a Council of the District of Columbia. Congress continues to review all District legislation passed by the council and has authority over the District budget. District judges are still appointed by the president.
The District does not have a voting representative in Congress, and that fact has served as the primary argument for granting the District a Representative or statehood. District residents pay the highest per capita amount of federal taxes, and argue they are being taxed without representation. Efforts to grant voting representation come up regularly in Congress.
Johnson got 85 percent of the District votes cast in the 1964 election, and the Democrat has received the District’s electoral votes in every election held since. In 1972, Democrat George McGovern carried only the District and Massachusetts for his 17 electoral votes. In 1984, Democrat Walter Mondale carried only the District and Minnesota for his 13 electoral votes.