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D.C. Residents Lobbying For Voting Rights

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By Patrick Madden

It’s Emancipation Day in the District. The holiday celebrates the day, nearly 150 years ago, when President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill freeing more than 3,000 slaves in D.C.

Today some residents are using the holiday to rally support for voting rights. This morning more than 100 D.C. residents gathered in the bowels of the U.S. Capitol.

Their mission: fan out across the Capitol Hill and lobby members of congress ahead of next week’s expected House vote on D.C. voting rights. Elyer Zherka, with the group D.C. Vote, says the timing is perfect.

"This is a holiday celebrating the emancipation of slaves, but guess what: D.C. residents aren’t fully emancipated, and we are here asking for full emancipation and full democracy and we are demanding the vote today" says Zherka.

There are obstacles ahead. It looks like an amendment eliminating many of the city’s local gun control laws will be attached to the bill. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton says the effort must go forward.

"This is the closest we’ve ever been – that’s why we can’t walk away from the table now," says Norton.

Norton says the District can work on restoring it's gun laws later, when residents have voting rights. She also says the bill needs to move quickly through Congress. The Democracts could lose seats in the mid-term elections, which would hurt the effort.

And Norton says their deal with Utah, which would also gain a seat, runs out soon.

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