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District of Columbia votes on budget issue, council seat

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The District of Columbia holds a special election on Tuesday on whether the U.S. capital should have more budget autonomy, as well as to fill a city council seat made vacant in a financial scandal.

The charter amendment on the budget is part of the 68-square-mile (177-square-km) District's argument that it needs more self-government.

An elected mayor and a 13-member council have governed the overwhelmingly Democratic city of 632,000 people since 1973. But Congress has overriding authority and may overturn local laws, and the District has a non-voting representative in Congress and no senators.

Washington voters are casting ballots on whether a 30-day limit should be set for congressional review and modification of the District budget. After 30 days, if no action is taken by Congress, the budget would take effect.

The District, whose residents are subject to all federal taxes, has long chafed under federal restrictions and its license plates read "Taxation Without Representation." In a sign of sympathy, President Barack Obama's inaugural limousines bore those license plates in January.

Voters are also filling an at-large council seat made vacant when former Chairman Kwame Brown pleaded guilty last year to a federal charge of overstating his income in applying for bank loans.

At-large District Council member Phil Mendelson was appointed chairman when Brown resigned. Anita Bonds, a former chairman of the Democratic Party in the District, was appointed to Mendelson's seat on an interim basis.

Bonds faces five challengers. She had a slight lead in a Washington Post poll published last week.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Dan Grebler)