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094 What is the capital of the United States?

94. What is the capital of the United States?
Washington, D.C.

The government of the United States is a representative democracy, which means that citizens vote for people who then represent them in the government, making laws and decisions that reflect (or are the same as) what the citizens want. Congress, or the lawmaking part of government, is made up of representatives from each state who represent the citizens of their state when Congress votes. But not all U.S. citizens have representation in Congress.

U.S. citizens who live in the country’s capitol, Washington, DC, do not have a representative who can vote in Congress. That is because Washington, DC is not a state. The country’s founding fathers, or the people who were very important in creating the country, didn’t want the national capital to be in a state, because then, that state would have too much power. So instead, the capitol is between two states: Maryland and Virginia. Almost 600,000 people live in Washington, DC, and none of them have representation in Congress.

Until 1961, Washington, DC residents (or people who live in Washington, DC) weren’t able to vote in the presidential elections either, meaning that they had no influence over (or ability to change) who would become the next president. This changed with the Twenty-Third Amendment (or official change) to the U.S. Constitution, which is the country’s most important legal document. So now DC residents can vote in the presidential elections.

Most DC residents think it is unfair (or not right) that they do not have representation in Congress. They believe that all U.S. citizens should have representation, and they have turned to U.S. history (or looked to U.S. history) to find support for their argument. When North America was still a British colony, or land that belonged to Great Britain, people argued that taxation without representation, or having to pay money to the British government when they had no representation in it, was unfair.

Today DC residents use that same phrase, taxation without representation, to make the same argument. The phrase even appears (or is shown) on DC license plates, which are the flat, rectangular pieces of metal with letters and numbers on the front and back of cars and trucks, showing that the car is registered with the government. In the United States, each state has its own license plate. The one in DC says “taxation without representation” to remind people (or make them remember) that they think the situation is unfair.


representative democracy – a type of government in which citizens vote for people who represent them in the government, usually making laws and decisions that the citizens want
* In a representative democracy, people work closely with their elected representatives if they want to change something about their government.

resident – a person who lives in a particular state or area
* How long have you been a resident of Illinois?

influence – effect or impact, especially on the way that people think and act; the ability to change something
* Which author has had the greatest influence on your writing style?

to turn to (something) – to look at, read, or use something, especially to find information when one is researching something else
* Bernice turned to the newspaper when she wanted to find out which movies were playing at the theater.

to appear – to be seen
* Your eyes appear green when you wear a green shirt, but normally they look blue.

license plate – a flat, rectangular pieces of metal with letters and numbers on the front and back of cars and trucks, showing that the car is registered with the
* The police officer told the neighborhood group: “If you see someone driving dangerously, write down the license plate number and call the police.”

to remind (someone) – to make someone remember something; to tell someone about a future event so that he or she doesn’t forget
* I'd like to remind you to be back here by 12:00, or else the bus will leave without you.

unfair – not treating people equally
* The students thought it was unfair for the teacher to give some students extra homework.