The absurdity of the letter from Guy Gwynne (The Mail, 12/13) would have been laughable if not for the fact that the misinformation he presents could prevent citizens, including many who are not students, from registering in D.C. and exercising their right to vote.
Contrary to Gwynne’s claims, payment of taxes is not a requirement for residency. There are thousands of individuals in the District of Columbia who live on limited incomes due to unemployment, retirement, student status, or other reasons. While these people may not earn enough to pay taxes, they have not lost their right to vote in local elections, a right specifically protected by the 24th Amendment.
Also, Gwynne claims that “legal residents must…duly qualify for and get driver’s permits, at the very least.” Once again, many citizens who have lived in D.C. for decades have never applied for and received driver’s permits (just as many D.C. residents have never owned cars), yet these citizens have never been in danger of losing their residency status or their right to vote.
While Gwynne and others have tried to portray the controversy into a case of long-term residents vs. the universities, in fact the effort to intimidate student voters has rallied many nonstudent residents to the students’ cause. This support includes four of the current ANC 2E commissioners, who wrote a letter condemning the attempts to stop the students from voting. In addition, in winning the Burleith ANC seat, Georgetown student Rebecca Sinderbrand received the majority of her votes from nonstudents and received the endorsement of the incumbent commissioner.
Positive change in D.C. neighborhoods can only occur when all resident groups decide to work together. Perhaps Gwynne, Westy Byrd, and others could devote their considerable energies to cooperating with the newly elected neighborhood commissioners instead of inventing their own voting laws and finding ways to exclude citizens from the democratic process.