Residents of D.C. Cast First Presidential Votes – 11/3/1964

US History |

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Presently, one theme that continues to transcend the decades is the importance of voting in a presidential election. However, it is important to remember when this opportunity was not available to everyone as well as to those living in the District of Columbia. 

 In fact, the citizens living in the D.C. area were not allowed to fill out ballots and cast them in a presidential election until November 3rd, 1964. The residents living in area of the nation’s capital were finally permitted to vote for a vice president and a commander in chief because of the passing of the 23rd Amendment in 1961. So, the residents of the District of Columbia were able to become a factor in the 1964 presidential election by helping to defeat Republican candidate Barry Goldwater and voting their support to the Democratic candidate Lyndon Johnson.

There was a period where New York and then Philadelphia were acknowledged as representing the center of government temporarily for the just established United States from 1776-1800. Being how Southern politicians were uncomfortable with it being too far north, the location of the capital became a source of many debates and controversy. President George Washington was allowed to decide where the permanent site would be located thanks to Congress voting on a law in 1790. President Washington felt that a compromise was in order, so he chooses a spot of swampland that was undeveloped residing on the Potomac River between Virginia and Maryland as well as naming the area Federal City. However, the new city’s permanent name-Washington-was picked to honor the president by the commissioners in charge of the construction of the new city. On November 17th, 1800 became the date for the first session of Congress in Washington, D.C.

The voting capabilities of residents of D.C. were terminated as Congress put the District under their control in 1801. Fortunately, their voting rights were given back to them in 1961 under the 23rd Amendment which allowed the voters of D.C. to pick electors, based on population, for the Electoral College with the most being as many electors as the smallest populated state. Just like Wyoming which is population-wise America’s smallest state, D.C. is worth three electoral votes as it is 61-square-miles and having a population of more than 550,000 residents. The District of Columbia has been known in past elections to vote for Democratic candidates most likely due to their residents being mostly African-Americans.

Congress voted in 1970 to grant Washington, D.C. a non-voting delegate for the House of Representatives. The Home Rule Act passage in 1973 allowed Washington residents the capability to elect their first city council and mayor. An attempt to vote on an amendment that, just like a state, would have granted D.C. the ability to chose senators, electors and representatives unfortunately did not pass in 1978 as well as later calls for D.C. to be granted its’ statehood.

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Meg Wong

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One of the hardest working individuals, Meg sets the bar high when it comes to work ethic and being a great teammate. She learned these values at a young age while she was the captain of her high school volleyball team. Leading her team to 3 state championships and coming away victorious twice. You can still see the leader in her through everything she does for us here.