Commonwealths and territories are not States, and therefore do not have equal rights under the law. Residents of the District of Columbia (D.C.) lack full democratic representation in the political process. D.C.’s representation in Congress is limited to a non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives and a shadow Senator.
In spite of the fact that D.C. is home to nearly 600,000 people and 120 neighborhoods, the lack of federal voting representation limits their ability to influence policies that shape their daily lives.
Unlike residents of U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico or Guam, which also have non-voting delegates, citizens of the District of Columbia are subject to all U.S. federal taxes. This means they undergo taxation without representation. Ironically, it was the claim of “taxation without representation” that our founding fathers used a basis for declaring independence from England over 200 years ago. The pursuit of independence from England was energized by the colonists who did not have any representation in the English Parliament and had no say in what went on with their taxes. This practice gave rise to the term “Taxation without Representation”. And so, while we commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, the reality is that not every U.S. resident in the Union has fair and equal representation under the law.