DC Council Takes Next Step In Uphill Battle To Become 51st State

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Officials in Washington, D.C., are reviewing a proposed draft constitution to make the city the country’s 51st state.

The D.C. Council is holding a hearing on the draft Tuesday, which District voters will be asked to approve on the ballot when they vote in the November presidential election. The Council declined to take a final vote on the language in the draft in July, and said they will only vote on it if the ballot referendum passes in November. If approved by voters and the Council, the issue will still have to be decided in Congress, which is unlikely to support it given Republican opposition to statehood, reports NBC Washington.

If the District became the 51st state, Democrats would likely gain two extra seats in the Senate, which Republicans won’t allow. Despite the unlikely success of the statehood movement, Mayor Muriel Bowser and fellow District leaders are pushing ahead. Advocates are gathering this week at the DAR Constitution Hall, and Ralph Nader is lending his support to the issue.

“With a population of over 670,000 residents, D.C. is larger than Vermont and Wyoming, and it has a larger economy than sixteen other states,” Nader wrote in a leaflet to D.C. residents last week. “It is no longer conscionable to deny the residents of D.C. a voice in Congress. Out of all the democracies in the world, the United States is the only country that denies voting rights to residents of its capital city.”

The D.C. Council voted unanimously to approve a referendum July 12 to put the question of statehood to District voters in November. Longtime statehood advocates are extremely critical of the current process and argue the voice of the people has been silenced.

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, chaired by Bowser, had final say on what the document included. Residents had no real power to make their requests binding.

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. After a formal request from Bowser in June, the Democratic National Committee placed statehood on its draft platform for the convention.

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