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Twenty-Third Amendment: Including D.C. in Presidential Elections

​It wasn't until 1961 that citizens of the District of Columbia were able to vote in presidential elections. To this day, despite a population of roughly seven hundred thousand, D.C. residents do not have representatives in Congress. Therefore, the District of Columbia holds a unique status in the United States  - it is exclusively under the control of Congress, but also a degree of self-rule.

What the Twenty-Third Amendment Says

​"The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the 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.

The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

What It Means

United States Library of Congress, The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation

​Congress explained the purpose of the Twenty-Third Amendment as follows: "The purpose of this. . . constitutional amendment is to provide the citizens of the District of Columbia with appropriate rights of voting in national elections for President and Vice President of the United States. It would permit District citizens to elect Presidential electors who would be in addition to the electors from the States and who would participate in electing the President and Vice President."

"The District of Columbia, with more than 800,000 people, has a greater number of persons than the population of each of 13 of our States. District citizens have all the obligations of citizenship, including the payment of Federal taxes, of local taxes, and service in our Armed Forces. They have fought and died in every U.S. war since the District was founded. Yet, they cannot now vote in national elections because the Constitution has restricted that privilege to citizens who reside in States. The resultant constitutional anomaly of imposing all the obligations of citizenship without the most fundamental of its privileges will be removed by the proposed constitutional amendment. . . ."

"[This] . . . amendment would change the Constitution only to the minimum extent necessary to give the District appropriate participation in national elections. It would not make the District of Columbia a State. It would not give the District of Columbia any other attributes of a State or change the constitutional powers of the Congress to legislate with respect to the District of Columbia and to prescribe its form of government. . . . It would, however, perpetuate recognition of the unique status of the District as the seat of Federal Government under the exclusive legislative control of Congress."1

Related Resources


  1. H.R. Rep. No. 1698, 86th Cong., 2d Sess. 1, 2 (1960).
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