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Twenty-third Amendment

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noun
an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1961, allowing District of Columbia residents to vote in presidential elections.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

MORE ABOUT TWENTY THIRD AMENDMENT

What is the Twenty-third Amendment?

The Twenty-third Amendment is an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that gives the residents of the District of Columbia a vote in presidential elections.

The Constitution of the United States is the document that serves as the  fundamental law of the country. An amendment is a change to something. An amendment to the Constitution is any text added to the original document since its ratification in 1788. The Constitution has been amended 27 times in American history.

The Twenty-third Amendment has two sections.

The first section says that citizens of the District of Columbia can vote for presidential electors in the Electoral College, which is a way of saying they can vote in presidential elections. According to the amendment, the District of Columbia has a number of electoral votes equal to the least populous state.

The second section states that Congress has the power to pass laws to enforce the amendment.

According to the Constitution, the District of Columbia is not a state but a federal territory under the authority of Congress. The nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. (also known as just D.C.), is located in the District of Columbia. The two actually occupy the same geographic area, making them coextensive.

Since the ratification of the Twenty-third Amendment, the citizens of the District of Columbia have been eligible to vote in presidential elections. The Twenty-third Amendment has never been involved in a Supreme Court case and is considered uncontroversial. However, if the District of Columbia ever becomes a state, the amendment would likely need to be repealed.

Why is Twenty-third Amendment important?

The Twenty-third Amendment was passed by Congress on June 16, 1960. It was successfully ratified by the states on March 29, 1961.

Because the District of Columbia isn’t a state, it isn’t represented in the Senate and has only a non-voting delegate in the House of Representatives. However, Congress has often allowed it a lot of independence. Its residents pay federal and local taxes, serve in the military, and have the same protected rights as all other American citizens. They are able to elect a mayor and council. The District of Columbia also has its own department of motor vehicles, law enforcement, court system, and many other services you would find in any state.

Neither the Twenty-third Amendment nor the rest of the Constitution prevent the District of Columbia from becoming a state. However, support for D.C. statehood remains divided even today. Within the district itself, support for statehood has always been very high. Outside of D.C., though, the idea has been much less popular. In 2019, national polling showed that two-thirds of Americans opposed the idea of D.C. becoming a state.

The successful ratification of the Twenty-third Amendment encouraged Congress to try to increase D.C.’s representation. In 1978, Congress passed a potential amendment that would have given D.C. representation in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. However, the amendment failed to achieve the needed state votes for ratification.

Did you know … ?

Since the 1964 election (the first one it could legally vote in), the District of Columbia has voted for the Democratic Party candidate in every single presidential election. In fact, the District of Columbia is the only place to have consistently voted for the same political party in presidential elections since that time.

What are real-life examples of Twenty-third Amendment?

This tweet shows a picture of a voting center in the District of Columbia during the 2020 presidential election. The Twenty-third Amendment gives D.C. residents the right to vote for president.

The Twenty-third Amendment remains popular, though the amendment does raise questions about what would happen if D.C. became a state.

Quiz yourself!

The Twenty-third Amendment allows citizens of what area to vote in presidential elections? 

A. all American territories
B. the District of Columbia
C. Puerto Rico
D. Native American reservations

How to use Twenty-third Amendment in a sentence

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