Local Actions - DC Statehood

Why is DC Statehood Important?

Washington DC’s license plates say “Taxation without Representation.” As those of us who live in DC know, this is because DC residents pay federal taxes and serve in the military but we do not have voting representation in Congress. In addition, Congress must approve all legislation passed by our city council, which means that Congress can and does nullify our local laws and limit what we do with our locally raised taxes. For example, Congress has refused to let our DC government use our tax dollars for local legislation for:

  • Needle exchange programs

  • Funding abortions for low-income women using city tax revenue

  • Banning handguns.

With more than 700,000 residents, DC’s population is greater than the populations of Vermont and Wyoming and only a little smaller than Alaska, Delaware, and North and South Dakota. Close to 50% of our population is African-American with another 4% Latinx.

Our lack of representation is a clear case of voter suppression and racial injustice.

What is NOPE Doing?

NOPE coordinates with DC Vote and other local and national organizations that are working to achieve statehood.

Upcoming actions:

  • Join us at a rally outside the Capitol on July 24, to show our support for DC statehood when HR 51, the DC Statehood bill, goes before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. See #ShowUp4DC! for more details.

  • Join our Text 10 Campaign for DC Statehood. Text 10 friends to ask them to attend the Statehood rally on July 24.

Other possible actions include writing postcards to friends and family who live outside DC to explain how they can support Statehood, coordinating with Herd on the Hill to deliver letters in support of Statehood from supporters outside DC to their Members of Congress, and setting up Statehood tables at locations where tourists gather.

What Can you Do?

Join us as we continue to support DC statehood. We will post actions on this website and via our NOPE email list. For more information contact Jacqui Lieberman at jacquilieberman@gmail.com.

Accomplishments

NOPE members join others at DC Statehood Capitol Hill Day to lobby Congress about statehood.

NOPE members join others at DC Statehood Capitol Hill Day to lobby Congress about statehood.

On May 21, NOPE members participated in 51st for 51. We gathered on the East Lawn of the Capitol to build pressure to waive the filibuster for statehood votes, so that the threshold for passing a statehood bill would be the same as for a Supreme Court Justice – 51 votes. We want to ensure that a filibuster will not stand in the way of making DC the 51st state.

NOPE members attended DC Statehood Capitol Hill Day on February 27, 2019. We lobbied Members of Congress to educate them about why DC residents deserve the same democratic rights as residents of the 50 states.

How Can DC Become a State?

The DC Statehood movement proposes that DC become a state in the same way that all other states (with the exception of our original 13 colonies) have become part of the U.S. – by an act of Congress signed by the President.

This model is now known as the “Tennessee Model,” named for the way that Tennessee became a state. In 1785, residents of the territory of northwest Tennessee failed to gain statehood when they could not get the support of two-thirds of Congress. In 1787, they took a different approach – they called a constitutional convention in their territory, drafted a state constitution, and created a state government (including two senators). After 12 years of attempting to gain the attention of Congress 600 miles away, Tennessee’s two elected senators traveled to Congress to demand statehood. A month of bitter debate ensued between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, with the former holding sway in the House of Representatives and the latter in the Senate. The Anti-Federalists favored Tennessee’s admittance, while the Federalists were opposed (the Federalists believed that Tennessee’s citizens, who would be added to voter rolls once statehood was attained, would swell anti-Federalist ranks and alter the balance of power – sound familiar?). Congress finally granted Tennessee statehood, and six territories followed suit using this method of forming a state, electing representatives and then demanding statehood by showing up in the halls of Congress. DC is now using this model in our quest for statehood.

The power to grant statehood is given to Congress under Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1 of the Constitution. Under this approach, congressional authority over DC would end and DC residents would have full representation in the House and Senate. In addition, this approach would preserve a Federal District made up of the Capitol, White House, Supreme Court, the Mall, and key monuments (i.e., areas where governance occurs but where no one lives - a special arrangement would need to be made for those living in the White House!). Prominent constitutional lawyers agree that this path to statehood is Constitutional. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution, which created the national capital, states that the Federal District may not exceed ten miles square. Thus, a Federal District smaller than DC’s 68.34 square miles (a little over 8 miles square) would be allowed. In addition, Congress has the authority to redefine the District’s borders, as it did in 1846 when it ceded land back to Virginia.

Statehood ensures that DC residents have full representation in Congress on a permanent basis. Momentum for statehood has been building – especially since the 2018 mid-term elections, thanks in part to support from our newly elected progressive Representatives. Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced HR 51, the Washington DC Admission Act, in Congress on January 3, 2019. The bill, which now has 213 co-sponsors (as of June 15, 2019) will go before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on July 24, 2019. Plan to attend and show your support! See #ShowUp4DC! for more details. https://www.showup4dc.com/.

What’s been tried in the past…and failed

  • Legislation. Several bills have been introduced in Congress to provide DC voting rights in the House of Representatives and/or Senate without making DC a state. Criticisms of this approach include that Congress might not have the authority to do so and that any law allowing voter representation could be reversed in the future.

  • Retrocession. Originally part of Maryland and Virginia, DC became the federal capital in December 1800. Virginia’s portion of DC was returned to the state in 1846. Under retrocession proposals, Congress and Maryland would agree to return DC to Maryland, with the possible exclusion of the land immediately surrounding the Capitol, the White House, and the Supreme Court. One problem with this approach is that Maryland does not appear to want to take DC back and DC citizens do not necessarily want to become part of Maryland.

  • Constitutional Amendment. Amending the U.S. Constitution to make DC a state would resolve the concern that legislation granting DC voting rights could be reversed at any time. However, amending the Constitution is a long and difficult process, requiring ratification by 75% (38) states. In 1978, Congress proposed the District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment, which would have treated DC “as though it were a state” by providing congressional representation but it was ratified by only 16 states.

Resources

Sources describing DC statehood issues:

Electing to Drink Podcast: EP-006 Taxation Without Representation. An interview with Bo Shuff of DC Vote provides an extremely informative podcast about why we need DC statehood

District of Columbia Voting Rights, Wikipedia. Yes, its from Wikipedia - but it provides a comprehensive discussion of the issues related to DC voting rights.

Current status of HR51, Washington, D.C. Admission Act. Provides updates on the progress of H.R.51.

Interesting articles on Tennessee’s quest for statehood:

Opinion: As Statehood Day approaches, remember how Tennessee set model for nation.

Statehood Day: Celebrating Tennessee’s Original New Idea.

DC statehood organizations and leaders:

These groups are all involved in working for DC statehood. They offer resources on statehood and upcoming actions.

DC Vote - DC Vote is a national citizen engagement and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening democracy and securing equality for all in the District of Columbia.

League of Women Voters - The National League endorsed statehood for D.C. on June 19, 2016 at their national convention in Washington, D.C. They send their LWV DC Statehood Toolkit to every LWV chapter in the U.S. and to all DCPS history/civics teachers.

Stand UP! For Democracy in DC (Free DC) - This group’s mission is to obtain full democracy for all residents of DC with equal rights under the U.S. Constitution and human rights consistent with international law, and to promote good governance for the welfare of all people.

DC Statehood Coalition - A coalition of national and local organizations that support statehood for the people of Washington, DC.

DC for Democracy (DC4D) began as DC for Dean – a grassroots organization supporting the Howard Dean campaign in 2004.

D.C. Statehood Green Party has fought on behalf of District residents for self-determination and same basic rights of democratic self-governance since the party was founded in 1970 as the D.C. Statehood Party.

Neighbors United for DC Statehood - A group of District citizens who believe that grassroots community organizing and strategic congressional outreach can be the foundation and driving force behind the DC Statehood movement. Their strategy is to work neighborhood by neighborhood to educate and organize small groups at a time to build a sustainable movement for statehood.

D.C. Statehood -Yes We Can! is a loose coalition of statehood activists who came together in November 2008 to reignite the statehood movement. The website provides a fairly comprehensive library of statehood materials and history.

Students for D.C. Statehood - A non-profit organization dedicated to educating and mobilizing students and young adults to advocate for equal voting rights and statehood for the people of the District of Columbia.