DISTRICT OFFICIALS will in the coming months spend a lot of time and energy on a quest that even they realize is the longest of long shots: D.C. statehood. That doesn’t mean they are wrong to undertake the effort. It is important to keep reminding the American public and its leaders about the unjust treatment of people who live in the nation’s capital.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has announced a new front in the District’s long-running fight for equal rights. She proposed a three-part process that would allow the District to directly petition Congress for admission as a state. Statehood would give the District voting representation in the House and Senate as well as legislative and budget autonomy. The petition would be preceded by a November referendum and, if city voters favored statehood, a convention to draft and ratify a constitution. The new state would exclude a small federal enclave, thus making a constitutional amendment unnecessary.
The mayor wants the statehood package in place when a new administration and Congress take office. No matter who wins in November, though, it’s hard to foresee a scenario in the immediate future that would be favorable to statehood. Republicans will do everything they can to prevent the reliably Democratic District from gaining two Senate seats. Even some Democrats have reservations about statehood, including Maryland and Virginia representatives who want to protect residents of their states from a commuter tax.
What the District has going for it is the moral high ground. The 672,000 (and climbing) residents of the District pay taxes, volunteer for military duty and fulfill other obligations of citizenship, but they have no voting representation in Congress. That is just wrong. As former Republican presidential contender John Kasich acknowledged during a visit to The Post, “Fair is fair. You’ve got a point there.”
It is good, therefore, that D.C. officials are planning a new offensive to correct what Ms. Bowser aptly called the country’s “biggest ongoing voting rights violation.” It should raise public awareness about the District’s plight and put both Democrats and Republicans on the spot about the need to address the District’s disenfranchisement. Those who oppose statehood should be pressed for their alternative ideas on how to end this injustice.