Skip to Main Content

Twenty-Third Amendment: About

Amendment XXIII: 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.

Why is the Twenty-Third Amendment Important?

Congress passed the Twenty-Third Amendment on June 16, 1960. The proposed amendment was quickly ratified as part of the Constitution. On March 29, 1961, Ohio became the thirty-eighth State to approve the Amendment, thereby fulfilling the Constitution’s Article V requirement that amendments be ratified by three-fourths of the States. Six months later, Congress exercised its power under Section 2 of the Amendment to enact Public Law No. 87-389, establishing the mechanics of presidential election in the District of Columbia. After its ratification, two more States ratified the Amendment.

The Amendment allows American citizens residing in the District of Columbia to vote for presidential electors, who in turn vote in the Electoral College for President and Vice President. In layperson’s terms, the Amendment means that residents of the District are able to vote for President and Vice President. Prior to the Amendment, citizens residing in the District could not vote for those offices unless they were validly registered to vote in one of the States.

Congress ultimately controls the District, but has allowed it a degree of self-rule. The Seat of Government Clause of the 1787 Constitution, which provided for the establishment of the District, grants Congress exclusive power to govern the District. Over the years, most recently pursuant to the 1973 Home Rule Act, Congress has exercised that power to extend to the District a measure of autonomy, including the power to elect a Mayor and a Council. 

Since its creation, the District has sometimes been treated like a State. The District is deemed to be a State for the purpose of levying and collecting federal and local taxes, for service in the armed forces, for diversity jurisdiction, and for regulating commerce. But it still remains that, at present, the District is not considered a State for purposes of congressional representation. Nothing in the Twenty-Third Amendment changes that: the Amendment neither grants the District statehood, nor does it provide residents with representation in the Senate or the House of Representatives, though, by congressional legislation, residents have long had the right to elect a non-voting delegate to the House. 

In 1978, Congress adopted “The District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment,” which provided for the District of Columbia to “be treated as though it were a State.” The proposed amendment would have given the District seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Only 16 of the 38 States needed for ratification approved the proposed amendment before the seven-year period open for ratification expired. Continue reading from Constitution Center

The District of Columbia: Still a Lesser Class of Citizenship?

There are two important points to consider about the Twenty-Third Amendment: The first and perhaps most crucial, as Rep. Jamin Raskin writes, is that “we are the only nation on earth that disenfranchises the people of its capital city.” This fact, which places us entirely outside the norms of other democracies, is neither a natural consequence of our federated political structure, nor the implicit, much less explicit, intent of the Framers of the Constitution. The second and no less significant point to bear in mind is that the people of the District of Columbia were not always second-class citizens. For a while after Virginia and Maryland ceded land to the federal government to form the District, residents living within the geographical boundaries of the District did vote in the elections of federal officers for Virginia and Maryland.

 A federated political system is usually understood to consist of “a national polity with dual or multiple levels of government, each exercising exclusive authority over constitutionally determined policy and/or geographical areas, but in which only one level of government—the central government—is internationally sovereign.” Continue reading from Constitution Center

Link to George Washington's Washington by Adam Costanzo in Freading
Link to Washington, DC : trace the path of America's heritage by Randi Minetor in the catalog
Link to Fault lines in the Constitution : the framers, their fights, and the flaws that affect us today by Cynthia Levinson in the catalog
Link to The Ballot Box : 10 Presidential Elections That Changed American History by Chris Barsanti in the catalog
Link to Electoral dysfunction by Victoria Bassetti in the catalog