The Gallup poll released Monday found that 64 percent of adults polled in June are opposed to the District becoming a state. Only 29 percent of those surveyed expressed support for D.C. statehood. The poll was conducted in advance of a hearing by the House Oversight and Reform Committee on D.C. statehood that had been set for this month but was delayed to avoid conflicting with testimony from former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
The move by House Democratic leadership to hold what would be the first hearing on this issue in more than two decades has been hailed by statehood advocates as a sign of growing momentum. A record 216 House members — two shy of a majority — have co-sponsored a bill that would make the District the 51st state, and every Democrat running for president in 2020 has come out for statehood. Opposition from Republicans in control of the Senate and White House means any statehood bill — with the likelihood of the District electing two Democrats to the Senate — is dead on arrival, but advocates see the effort as building a foundation for when Democrats are in control.
But the fact that only 39 percent of Democrats polled by Gallup said they supported statehood underscores just how hard it will be to achieve. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District’s nonvoting delegate to the House, believes part of the problem is that most Americans are not aware of the fact that the 700,000 residents of the District do not have equal representation.
The House hearing, now set for September, will offer the chance to raise national awareness about this civil rights issue. It should explain the case for statehood, but it could also explore intermediate or transitional steps that might begin to address D.C. disenfranchisement. It’s disappointing that the idea of giving the District a vote in the House has been abandoned and that then-President Barack Obama didn’t follow our suggestion for a presidential commission to examine the problem and come up with solutions. No one who cares about democracy should be comfortable with a status quo that denies U.S. citizens a voice in their government, so surely it’s time to get serious about finding a workable solution.