District of Columbia voters, after weeks of sometimes sharp debate over a proposed state constitution, will cast ballots on the issue Tuesday, deciding the city's next step on the long and far-from-certain road to possible statehood.
City voters also will be among 10 states and 30 other local communities that will be voting on a proposed nuclear freeze initiative.
The D.C. initiative, which formally would commit the city to support a bilateral nuclear weapons freeze, has received nearly unanimous backing among community and elected officials here and has drawn little oppositon or public debate.
The draft constitution, written last spring by 45 elected delegates to the D.C. Statehood Constitution, has fared less well as debate swirled around a number of provisons in the 18,000-word document.
Competing groups are spending the weekend passing out flyers and nailing up posters in order to generate interest in the constitution.
A group of delegates held a press conference yesterday to rally opposition to the measure, while a pro-constitution group plans a final rally on the issue today in Adams Morgan.
While many city officials, including Mayor Marian Barry and D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy, have said that they will vote for the constitution, they have refused to campaign for it and have stressed that it needs major revisions.
D.C. officials, including many members of the City Council, have argued that the convention delegates drafted a proposal that is too ideological or impractical ever to get the necessary support of Congress, and that this threatens its chances on Tuesday.
If the measure is defeated it will be sent back to the delegates, who would have 90 days in which to make changes and then would resubmit the document to the city's voters next year.
If the draft constitution passes, it could be amended by the City Council, the Congress or the convention delegates before being submitted officially to Congress. Any changes would have to be submitted to the voters for approval.
Proponents argue that a vote against the measure will slow the drive towards statehood. Opponents counter that the only way to be certain that changes will be made in the measure is to defeat it at the polls. They argue that voting for an unacceptable document is tantamount to abdicating what little right of self-determination District residents have.
Some of the more controversial provisions of the measure include sections that would allow police and firefighters the right to strike, would require the city to guarantee a job or adequate income to all residents, and would require prosecutors to release all evidence for a trial to defense lawyers.
A provison for a 40-member legislature also has been criticized as impractical.
Groups that have supported adopting the constitution include the D.C. Democratic State Committee, Americans for Democratic Action, the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO, the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, and the D.C. chapter of the National Organization of Women.
The D.C. Federaton of Civic Associations voted against the measure, while the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union praised parts of the document but declined formally to endorse it.
The nuclear freeze iniative, if passed, would direct the mayor to appoint an unpaid advisory board that would urge Congress and the president to begin immediate negotiation of a nuclear weapons freeze.