*Note: The Interactive Constitution is being developed over the course of the next two years. So far, Amendments 1-15 have Interactive content, and we are working on bringing you Interactive content for this Amendment. In the meanwhile, the interpretation below is supplied by the Annenberg Classroom.
Although New York was the nation’s capital when the Constitution was ratified, the capital moved to Philadelphia in 1790 for ten years.
In 1800, the District of Columbia became the official seat of government. When first established, the town had a small population of only five thousand residents. As a federal territory, however, and not a state, the inhabitants had neither a local government, nor the right to vote in federal elections. Although by 1960 the population of the District of Columbia had grown to over 760,000 people, and District residents had all the responsibilities of citizenship—they were required to pay federal taxes and could be drafted to serve in the military—citizens in thirteen states with lower populations had more voting rights than District residents.
Passed by Congress on June 17, 1960, and ratified by the states on March 29, 1961, Amendment XXIII treats the District of Columbia as if it were a state for purposes of the Electoral College, thereby giving residents of the District the right to have their votes counted in presidential elections.
Significantly, Amendment XXIII does not make Washington, D.C. a state; it merely grants its citizens the number of electors that it would have if it were a state (but no more than the smallest state). Nor does the amendment provide District residents with representation in Congress (D.C. residents have one non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives) or change the way the District is governed. Congress continues to prescribe the District’s form of government.