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Statehood

DC residents seek Statehood because it is the most appropriate mechanism to grant the US citizens who reside in the District of Columbia the full rights privilege of American citizenship. These rights would include not only full voting rights in the US House of Representatives and US Senate, but also full control over its own local affairs.

The United States is the only nation in the world with a representative, democratic constitution that denies voting representation in the national legislature to the citizens of the capital.

DC elects a Delegate to the House of Representatives who can vote in committee and draft legislation, but does not have full voting rights. However, Congress is considering legislation that will grant DC's Delegate full voting rights. The current Delegate is Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

DC residents also elect two shadow senators and a shadow representative as non-voting representatives. This shadow delegation lobbies Congress on District issues and concerns.

There are various solutions that would bring different degrees of federal representation and local autonomy to Washingtonians. View the links below to find out about organizations involved in DC voting rights and statehood issues.

Achieving statehood

The mechanics of statehood are relatively simple. They have been invoked 37 times since the first 13 colonies formed their union. A territory must petition the Congress, draft a constitution with a republican form of government, Congress must approve by a simple majority, and the President must sign the bill. A constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote of Congress as well the support of three-quarters of the state legislatures. In other words, 13 states can veto a constitutional amendment. The last time a voting rights amendment was circulated, less than half the required states approved it within the seven year time limit.

A constitutional amendment may be repealed. Statehood cannot be repealed.

Congress' power over the District

The Constitution states the upper size limit of the district over which it has power; it does not state the lower limit. The size of the District has been changed in the past, most significantly when the Virginia portion was retroceded to that state. DC statehood would require a simple reduction of the size of the federal district to an unpopulated area running, say, from the Capitol along the Mall to the Lincoln Memorial.

Practicalities of statehood

Statehood is not impractical. We've created a new state 85 percent as frequently as we have elected a new president. In fact, it will become increasingly impractical for the Senate to remain our most segregated and unrepresentative legislature, one which would be subject to court-ordered bussing if it were a school system; sued under civil rights laws if it were a corporation; and from which, if it were a private club, one would want to resign before running for public office. The Senate also discriminates against cities and the largest states. For example, there are eight states with 16 senators that have in aggregate less population than New York City. There are 18 states with 36 senators with less population than all of New York State.

There are 21 states with 42 senators that together have less population than California with its two senators. In fact, the malapportionment of the Senate is perhaps the most important, undiscussed issue in the country today for there is hardly a matter of political importance that would not be affected if that body were to reflect 21st century, rather than 19th century, demographics. Further, in not too many years, white Americans will cease to be in the majority. Even leaving moral questions aside, how much longer will it be politically practical to tell blacks and latinos that the rules can't be changed to let them into the Senate in some reasonable number? DC is a great place to start correcting this grievous vacuum.

“… My instincts are in favor of [statehood for the District of Columbia].”—Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA)

The District is the only political and geographical entity within the United States whose citizens bear the responsibilities of government without sharing in the appropriate privileges of government.

District residents bear all the burden of citizenship, but do not share the most cherished right of citizenship—full representation in the Congress. In addition to paying federal taxes, District residents also pay local taxes, and are subject to all the laws of the United States as well as treaties made with foreign governments.

The United States is the only nation in the world with a representative, democratic constitution that denies voting representation in the national legislature to the citizens of the capital.

A "Constitution for the State of New Columbia (as the new state will be called)," was approved by duly elected delegates from the District of Columbia on May 29, 1982, and adopted by a vote of the people of the District of Columbia in an election held November 2, 1982. The Constitution and a petition for Statehood was transmitted by the Mayor of Washington, DC to the Congress of the United States on September 9, 1983.