This bears watching.
After more than 200 years of paying taxes, fighting in the nation's wars and abiding by sometimes arbitrary acts of Congress, Washington residents are close to getting a full-fledged representative in the House.
The turning point in this long battle for enfranchisement may be an unlikely partnership with the people of Utah.
The new Democratic majority, in the first months of the new Congress, is expected to take up a bill that would increase the voting membership of the House from 435 to 437, giving new vote each to Utah, a Republican stronghold, and the District of Columbia, dominated by Democrats.
Republicans, after capturing the majority in 1995, were naturally cool to the idea of giving Democrats another sure vote in the House, but it was a Republican, Rep. Tom Davis of Washington's northern Virginia suburbs, who several years ago came up with the link between Utah and the District.
Utah insists that the 2000 census undercounted the state's population because so many of the state's young Mormon men were out of state or out of the country doing missionary work. Utahans said a proper count would have entitled the state to an additional representative, up from the current three.
Earlier this month the Utah legislature, to comply with the Davis-Norton bill, approved a redistricting plan creating three largely Republican districts and one more urban district where Democrats might have a better chance.
I would rather the other Washington became a full-fledged state and also gained two seats in the Senate (Democrats, giving us a Lieberman-proof majority). But this a compromise worth looking at. If I read this right, it should increase the number of electors by one from 538 to 539 eliminating the possibility of a tie in presidential elections. Considering no one seems eager to do anything about finally getting rid of the Electoral College, this would at least constitute a real reform.
If if did become a state, I wonder what they'd call it. A third Columbia in the hemisphere (after British and Shakira's) seems a bit excessive. Besides, do DC'ers call themselves Washingtonians or Columbians? Washington is already taken, but they could call it East Washington. If civic groups get involved, you know they'll come up with inoffensive geographic names like Potomac or Anacostia.
I'm less sure whether or not the plan serious. Is congress really ready to pass something like this, or is this just a futile gesture to appease a valuable constituency, like the culture war amendments that the Republicans regularly propose to stoke the fires of the far right? Let's keep an eye on this one.