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DC Statehood Green Party to Congress: The District of Columbia needs statehood, not ‘voting rights’

• Statehood Greens challenge the misconception that a constitutional amendment is necessary for DC statehood

• DC statehood is important for America — not just for District residents

Leaders of the DC Statehood Green Party urged Congress to set aside proposed legislation for ‘DC Voting Rights’ and instead draft and enact legislation to make the District of Columbia a state.   The DC Statehood Green Party, which has promoted the goal of DC statehood since its founding as the DC Statehood Party in 1970, joins the Stand Up! for Democracy in DC (http://www.freedc.org) and DC Statehood — Yes We Can (http://dcstatehoodyeswecan.org) coalitions in calling for Congress and the White House, which are now under the control of Democrats, to take action to make the District America’s 51st state.

“The DC Voting Rights bill will not change the District’s political status or afford either democracy or equality under the US Constitution for DC residents.  Only statehood will give us democratic self-government and our two Senators and one Representative in Congress,” said Renee Bowser, DC Statehood Green Party member, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, and former candidate for City Council.

The voting rights bill, recently introduced by nonvoting DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Sen. Joe Lieberman (Ind.-Conn.), would grant a single voting seat for the District in the US House.  On Tuesday, January 27, the US House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on the bill, which is titled “District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009” (HR 157).

Party members further noted that DC statehood — unlike voting rights — will end Congress’s control over local laws, policies, and budgets, citing a long list of examples of Congress imposing its will on the District over the opposition of residents: e.g., an order to dismantle of DC General Hospital, DC’s only full-service public health facility; prohibitions against medical marijuana (despite passage of Initiative 59 with a 69% majority) and needle exchange; denial of the right to collect city revenue with a commuter tax (like other US cities).  Voting rights will not end or reduce Congress’s power over the District.

Furthermore, by granting District residents a single vote in Congress, while other Americans are represented by two Senators and a Representative, the voting rights bill makes DC residents ‘one third citizens.’  The bill thus recalls the 1787 Three-Fifths Compromise that labeled slaves ‘three-fifth citizens’ for purposes of voting apportionment in Congress.

“DC statehood is important not just for the people of Washington, DC.  Democratic self-determination and equality for the city’s African American majority population remains one of the unfulfilled goals of the struggle for civil rights.  Having a state like DC in Congress will benefit all Americans who live in cities, since city-dwellers and their interests tend to be underrepresented in Congress, especially in the Senate.  At this point, Democrats are likely to gain three more votes, too,” said Anne Anderson, long-time DC Statehood Party member.

Statehood Greens and other statehood advocates have warned that the voting rights bill may be overturned by a court decision, since the US Constitution only grants voting seats in Congress to states.

Challenging the claim that DC statehood is only possible through a constitutional amendment (requiring ratification by 2/3 of states), Statehood Greens note that Congress has the power to grant statehood to the District through legislation passed by a simple majority.

Congress would pass a bill altering the borders of the constitutionally mandated federal enclave, reducing it to the federal properties (land occupied by the White House, Capitol, Supreme Court building, Mall, etc., analogous to federal properties in many states).  Statehood Greens noted the precedent for redrawing the District’s border: in 1846, Congress gave Alexandria, originally part of DC, to Virginia.

The bill would be enacted with at least 51% of the vote in Congress.  DC residents would then vote on whether to ask Congress for statehood or some other option.  (Poll results have shown that DC residents strongly favor statehood over retrocession to another state.)  After this vote, Congress would vote to admit the new state to the union, by a simple majority, as it admitted all other states after the initial thirteen that founded the United States of America.

Statehood for DC would be permanent and irreversible, unlike DC voting rights, which Congress would always have the power to repeal.

The DC Statehood Green Party is an affiliate of the Green Party of the United States, the only national party with ballot status in the District that endorses DC statehood in its platform.  The Democratic Party deleted support for DC statehood from its 2004 and 2008 national platforms.

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