The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion No compromise on statehood

A rally participant hand out “I showed up 4 DC Statehood” stickers during the “Finish the Job: For the People” rally at the Robert A. Taft Memorial and Carillon in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 14.
A rally participant hand out “I showed up 4 DC Statehood” stickers during the “Finish the Job: For the People” rally at the Robert A. Taft Memorial and Carillon in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 14. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)
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In his Nov. 12 letter, “A vote in the House,” William H. Hurd argued that D.C. residents should compromise between achieving statehood and accepting the status quo by settling for a vote in the House of Representatives. He said that achieving a vote in the House would require a constitutional amendment. We at DC Appleseed disagree with Mr. Hurd on both points.

D.C. residents are taxpaying Americans bound by the laws Congress passes. Those residents are entitled to the full voting representation other Americans have, not just a vote in the House.

Moreover, Mr. Hurd was wrong to suggest that voting representation for D.C. residents would require a constitutional amendment. Under the Constitution’s District clause, Congress has exclusive authority over the District, and in 2007 and 2009 the House and the Senate determined by large majorities that Congress has authority under that clause to grant D.C. voting rights without a constitutional amendment.

D.C. residents have been without voting representation in Congress for more than 200 years. We agree with Mr. Hurd that when the District was created in 1801, an argument could have been made that it was too small to warrant representation. But, as Mr. Hurd noted, “that changed long ago.” The United States is the only democracy on Earth that denies voting representation to the citizens of its capital city. It is time for Congress to address this inequity.

Walter Smith, Washington

The writer is executive director
of DC Appleseed.

In his Nov. 12 letter, William H. Hurd argued that shrinking the size of the District of Columbia to a small federal district and leaving the populated areas as a state would require an amendment to the Constitution. We likely would need a cleanup amendment to remove the three electoral college votes in presidential elections for the unpopulated federal district. No state has any reason to oppose this amendment, and it would sail through if D.C. were made a state. D.C. statehood can be achieved by simple act of Congress.

Mr. Hurd suggested a constitutional amendment to give D.C. residents a vote in the House but none in the Senate. This proposal keeps D.C. citizens in an inferior status. Every D.C. citizen deserves the same democratic rights as every other American. D.C. is 22nd among states in absolute federal income tax dollars paid and first in per capita taxation. D.C. already has just about all the responsibilities of a state (except for some criminal justice services) but not the rights. 

Mr. Hurd argued for a “federally controlled buffer” against an inflamed D.C. population. D.C.’s proximity is no longer a factor. For example, rioters came from all over the nation in their Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. 

The motive of many opponents to D.C. statehood is political fear that it would partially correct a structural bias in the Senate’s composition, which overwhelmingly favors low-population, rural states.

Edward M. Meyers, Washington

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