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DC Council Powers Toward Statehood, Frustrated Voters Left Behind

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Residents of Washington, D.C., will cast a vote in November on becoming the nation’s 51st state, but statehood activists critical of the closed door constitutional drafting process are lashing out over the lack of transparency.

The D.C. Council voted unanimously to approve a referendum Tuesday to put the question of statehood to District voters in November. Mayor Muriel Bowser presented the referendum to the Council in an effort to turn the heat up on Congress to hold a vote on the contentious issue. Even if residents pass the referendum in November, Congress will still have to hold a vote, which is unlikely given Republican opposition to statehood, reports The Washington Post.

Longtime statehood advocates are extremely critical of the current process and argue the voice of the people has been silence. Despite holding a “constitutional convention” in June, 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. (RELATED: DC Statehood Advocates Settle On Name No One Likes)

“I’m not going to support it, because I don’t know what I’ll be voting for,” Ann Loikow, with the activist group DC Statehood Yes We Can, told The Washington Post. “This whole process is a sham. They’re not offering us democracy – they’re offering us autocracy, and they’re the autocrats that are going to keep running it.”

The New Columbia Statehood Commission finalized a constitution in June and presented it to the D.C. Council. 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. Voters will be voting to approve this draft, however the Council declined to take a final vote on the language in the draft and said they will only vote on it if the ballot referendum passes in November.

After a formal request from Bowser in June the Democratic National Committee placed statehood on their draft platform for the convention. Despite the criticism from activists, the Council defended the process, arguing urgency was necessary in order to ensure it appeared on the November ballot.

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