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Making Democracy Reform a Priority: DC Statehood

So, why is democracy reform so important? Everything we care about as progressives — health care, immigration, economic justice, racial justice, the courts, climate change, and everything else — is only fixable in a democracy that is responsive to the people, not the powerful and wealthy. D.C. statehood is a critical part of our democracy reform plan because it would enfranchise over 700,000 people and provide two new senators who would be vital to fixing our broken Senate.

Democrats signaled that democracy reform is high on their priority list. The House already passed the For the People Act (H.R. 1), a landmark democracy reform bill that included: expanded voting rights and election security measures, public funding for elections, and plans to fight racial and partisan gerrymandering at all levels of government. D.C. Statehood is next, but it still has a long way to go before it can become law.

Both the For the People Act and the D.C. Statehood bill have already been introduced in the new Congress. Call and tweet at your incoming Members of Congress and tell them to prioritize passing H.R. 1 and D.C. statehood as their first act in the new Congress.

Call your Representative and tell them to support the D.C. Statehood bill

D.C. statehood is a critical democracy and racial justice reform. This is our chance to not only stand up for the rights of D.C. residents, but to build a stronger democracy that more accurately reflects our values of equality and fairness for all. Call your Representative and ask them to support the DC statehood bill.

Why D.C. Statehood?

If we’re serious about building a democracy that works for the people, that conversation starts with D.C. statehood. D.C. statehood is both a critical racial justice and democracy issue — if D.C. is granted statehood, it would be the only state in the nation to have a plurality of Black residents. In addition, two new senators would work to rebalance the Senate from entrenched minority control. Despite overwhelming support in D.C. for statehood, the federal government has so far refused to grant full representation to D.C. residents.

The reasons for disenfranchising the District of Columbia are pernicious. D.C. is a historically-Black city and Black people still make up just under 50 percent of the population. That’s because President Lincoln signed a bill into law that abolished slavery in D.C. a full nine months before his national Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, so the District quickly became a popular place for recently-freed Black people and escaped slaves to go, find work, and settle. However, during Reconstruction, racist white politicians were loath to give recently-enfranchised Black men more political power, a trend that’s continued to this day. In fact, as recently as the 1960s, the Southern chairman of the House committee in charge of D.C. oversight sent a truckload of watermelons to the city’s Black mayor after the District submitted its annual budget to Congress.

Due to D.C.’s lack of statehood, the 700,000 Americans who live in D.C. lack equal voting rights compared to their neighbors across the country. In fact, D.C. residents lack a voting representative in the House and have no representation in the Senate at all. The current makeup of our Senate is biased towards white, rural areas. This means that BIPOC and people living in urban areas receive less representation in our Senate -- making D.C. a state would begin to counteract this bias.