The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Section 1 of the Twenty-third Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: “The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as Congress may direct: A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least populous State; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the States, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a State; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.”
This provision gives the residents of the District of Columbia the same right as residents of any state – the right to be represented in the Electoral College or in other words to have the right to vote for the President and Vice President.
W. Cleon Skousen explained, “As the population of the District of Columbia increased, leaders of the Democratic Party demanded that District residents be allowed to vote in presidential elections, even though there was no provision for this practice in the Constitution. The entire problem could have been solved very simply through joint action by Congress and the state of Maryland allowing these people to vote as citizens of Maryland (which originally owned the entire area of the present District of Columbia).
“However, the sponsors of the above amendment had larger plans. The Twenty-third Amendment was designed to lay the foundation for a later amendment (which was passed by Congress but rejected by the states) to treat the District of Columbia almost as a state and allow it to have two Senators and a Congressman.
“It can be seen why some authorities consider the Twenty-third Amendment (as well as the proposed amendment making Washington, D.C., a city-state), a serious mistake. This would give substance to the demands of other major cities that would like to become city-states as well….” (See The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 757.)
Adam Kurland of The Heritage Foundation further explained: “the inability of the citizens of the District of Columbia to participate in federal elections has been controversial since the federal seat of government of the United States came into existence in 1800. In 1960, Congress rectified the situation concerning the District’s participation in presidential elections by passing the Twenty-third Amendment. It enables the District to participate in presidential and vice-presidential elections in the same manner in which the states participate in those elections. The states swiftly ratified the proposed amendment in time for the District to cast electoral votes in the presidential election of 1964. The amendment did not address the District’s lack of representation in Congress.
“The legislative history of the amendment makes clear that the drafters sought to provide the set of government of the United States, the District of Columbia, with the same method of selecting presidential electors in the Electoral College as the states employed to select their presidential electors….” (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p. 426.)