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DC Statehood Advocates Choose The One Name No One Likes

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Officials pushing for D.C. to become the nation’s 51st state settled on the name “New Columbia” Wednesday as they completed a final constitution, a name statehood supporters remain lukewarm on.

The New Columbia Statehood Commission settled on the familiar name, which was originally voted on with the District’s first draft state constitution in 1982. The commission also finalized a constitution which will be presented to the D.C. Council for a vote to be placed on the November ballot. The constitution would establish a 21 seat state legislature, a change from the original draft that would have simply elevated the 13 seat D.C. Council to the state’s legislative body, reports The Washington Post.

New Columbia is attracting focus and inspiring brutal backlash from District residents upset with the old name. Over the course of D.C.’s constitutional convention in June, hundreds of District residents submitted alternatives to the 1982 name. Many of the suggestions gained large support including Douglass Commonwealth, Potomac and Anocostia. (RELATED: Gun Bans And Global Warming Take Center Stage At DC Constitutional Convention)

No vote or formal polling guided the decision by the New Columbia Statehood Commission, but a recent informal poll by The Washington Post shows 51 percent of respondents want a new name all together. Douglass Commonwealth had the most support of any names at 25 percent, while New Columbia only held the support of 14 percent of those polled.

“It’s the only name that’s even been voted on by the people of the District of Columbia,” Paul Strauss, D.C.’s shadow senator, told WAMU. “For 34 years, people have used this name to push this movement forward.”

District residents who were critical of the constitutional convention noted they had little real input on the new constitution and proposed state name. Despite being called a constitutional convention, residents criticized its structure and transparency. There were no elected delegates representing community interests, and at the end of the day, the New Columbia Statehood Commission had final say on what the document includes. Residents had no real power to make their requests or demands binding.

Some statehood advocates are rebuking the New Columbia name for its ties to Christopher Columbus, who they attribute with colonialism.

“It’s not necessarily tied to Columbus in the way Columbus, Ohio would be,” Strauss told WUSA9. “Obviously, we’re cognizant of reassessing Christopher Columbus in our history.”

The D.C. Council will take a vote in early July to approve the constitution and put it on November’s ballot for District residents to vote on.

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