A Capital Conundrum: Examining the Roles of Race and Partisanship in the District of Columbia Voting Rights Movement.
Adler, Karen Robin.
- This thesis investigates the roles that race and partisanship have played in the Congressional debates over voting representation for the District of Columbia over the past fifty years. While D.C. residents accept that these two factors have had a significant presence in the failure to achieve Congressional voting representation, I examine the Congressional Record to identify traces of race and ... read morepartisanship over time. This study provides both qualitative and quantitative examinations of four periods: the 1960 Twenty-Third Amendment, which granted District residents the right to vote for president; a failed 1978 Constitutional Amendment to grant equal voting rights in Congress; and the 2007 and 2009 District of Columbia Voting Rights Acts, failed measures to provide the District one voting representative in Congress. These four efforts represent four moments when the discussion of District representation made it to the floor of Congress for an extended length of time in the past one hundred years. A textual analysis of the relationship between the poll tax and D.C. suffrage in the debates over the 1960 amendment reveals the level of association between these two racialized topics. A study of the partisan breakdown on the votes on Congressional passage and roll call votes establishes a more quantitative portrait of the increasing influence of political polarization over time. Finally, I borrow from and expand upon the study of implicitly coded racial references and apply this methodology to the Congressional Record from these four periods. Such a novel application of this method to the Congressional discussions on extending the franchise to D.C. finds the small but continual presence of racially-coded words, predominantly from supporters who tied the issue to broader black enfranchisement movements. The findings better situate the District in the context of other national and international suffrage movements.read less