DC to Vote on Becoming 51st State on Election Day

Even if voters say “yes” to the first-time referendum, everyone agrees that statehood is a long way off.

The skyline of Washington, D.C., including the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, U.S. Capitol and National Mall, is seen from the air at sunset in this photograph taken on June 15, 2014. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Filled with the longtime rallying cry of “No taxation without representation,” supporters of D.C. statehood will finally get a chance to vote on just that.

On Election Day, the District of Columbia will vote on its first referendum on becoming the country’s 51st state, something that would eventually require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution in order to happen.

The Guardian reports that the District was created to serve as the U.S. capital, but it is not a state. Its 672,000 (majority-black) residents pay federal taxes but have no voting representative in the Senate or House of Representatives.

Advocates hope that a yes vote Tuesday could help pressure the new Congress and new president to admit the District of Columbia as a state, though even advocates admit that is unlikely to happen anytime soon. A yes vote would simply be an expression of public support, a nonbinding measure without any legal teeth.

For the District to become a state, Congress would have to propose an amendment to the Constitution, which would then have to win a two-thirds-majority vote in both the Senate and the House. Even if an amendment could win approval in both houses of Congress, it would face another big hurdle: approval by the legislatures of at least three-quarters of the 50 states.

Because it’s a (majority-black) city under federal control, advocates have long accused the Republican-controlled House and Senate of interfering with issues in the District such as abortion and marijuana legalization. Also, the left-leaning area would elect Democratic representatives to Congress, something that Republicans are not quick to push for.

The referendum, the first to be held on the issue, seeks to upend the Constitution’s provision giving Congress legislative control over the District of Columbia. Voters will cast a single yes or no vote on the referendum’s four parts: admission as a state, its boundaries, approval of a constitution and guarantees of a representative form of government.

The new state would embrace the current 68-square-mile District except for a core of federal property around the White House, Capitol and National Mall.

Read more at The Guardian.

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