WASHINGTON, D.C. – NOW applauds the House of Representatives for passing HR 51 and supporting D.C. statehood. We urge the Senate to do the same and officially recognize Washington D.C. as the 51st state. It is time we upheld our country’s democratic values of equality and representation for all.
The feminist movement in the United States began as a movement for suffrage and NOW continues that legacy by fighting for access to the right to vote for everyone across the country, including, since 1978, the people of D.C. Denying D.C. federal representation is a deliberate denial of our freedom to vote. The almost 700,000 people who live in the District may be able to vote for local government, but they have no meaningful vote in Congress. D.C. has a larger population than two states, its residents pay more in federal taxes than 22 states, and they fulfill the same responsibilities expected of American citizens in all 50 states. They deserve the same representation, at least one representative and two senators, that every state is allocated. Moreover, D.C. does not have full autonomy over its own governance as Congress controls the city’s budget and has total oversight of local policies and operations. Put simply, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri – a member of the subcommittee tasked with overseeing the city’s operations – has more control over D.C.’s future than the hundreds of thousands of people who live and work there. This system undermines the basic principles this country was founded on.
As is the case with most deliberate barriers to voting, denying D.C. statehood is rooted in structural racism. After the Civil War, white elites were concerned that the growing population of newly enfranchised Black voters would take control of the city, so they put D.C. on a path leading it away from statehood. Today, almost half of Washingtonians are Black and the majority are people of color. These are the people disenfranchised by D.C.’s current situation. If the District becomes the 51st state, “the District would be the only plurality-Black state in the country.” Making D.C. a state is a matter of racial justice and equality.
By granting D.C. statehood, the Senate will send a message that basic American values like liberty, justice, and equality still matter. This country is not truly a democracy until every American has equal access to equal representation. We urge our members to contact their senators and demand justice for the people of the District of Columbia.