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Senate approves DC voting rights bill but adds Second Amendment proviso

[JURIST] The US Senate on Thursday approved the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009 (S 160) [text] by a 61-37 vote [roll call]. The legislation gives the residents of the District of Columbia (DC) voting representation in the House of Representatives and also gives Utah an additional seat in the House. The Act was introduced into the House (HR 157) [bill summary] by DC delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton [official website] on January 6 and into the Senate on the same day by Senators Joseph Lieberman (CT) and Orrin Hatch (UT) [official websites]. Approval of the bill may yet be impeded by Amendment 575 [text; materials], introduced by Senator John Ensign (R-NV) [official website], which seeks to counter DC's strict gun laws by attempting to "restore Second Amendment rights." The amendment, passed 62-36, calls for the repeal of strict firearms registration requirements, lifts bans on semi-automatic weapons and handgun ammunition, and limits DC's ability to restrict federally allowed firearms and other gun-related provisions. The overall Act has yet to be approved by the House of Representatives.

The House previously approved a DC voting rights bill in 2007, although it was later rejected by the Senate [JURIST reports]. Eleanor Holmes Norton is the current House delegate for DC and is not allowed to vote on the final passage of bills. DC residents have been trying to obtain a voting seat in the House since 1801 [DPC backgrounder] but have been opposed on Constitutional grounds. Article I, Section 2 of the US Constitution has stood in the way [JURIST report] of such voting rights by granting representation only to the "People of the several States." Supporters of DC voting rights cite Article I, Section 8, which provides that Congress shall have exclusive legislative authority over the District. In December, DC passed legislation [JURIST report] increasing the restrictions on gun ownership after the Supreme Court in June prohibited [JURIST report] a gun ban in DC on Second Amendment grounds.

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