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Making Democracy Reform a Priority: DC Statehood

We did it: Democrats won back the White House and kept control of the House of Representatives. We’re still waiting to see what happens with the Georgia Senate races, but the good news is that Donald Trump will be out of office in January. But Trump’s presidency was a symptom, not the cause, of the problems facing our country. Our democracy has been rigged for people like Trump (wealthy white guys) since the very beginning of this country’s founding. So now the real work begins. We need to ensure that a corrupt, far-right extremist like Trump is never elected again, and that starts with making sure democracy reform, including and especially statehood for the District of Columbia, is one of the Biden administration’s top priorities. 

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 have already signaled that democracy reform is high on their priority list. In 2019, the House 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. 

In 2019, House Democrats also passed H.R. 51, the D.C. statehood bill — the first time in history that D.C. statehood passed either chamber of Congress. While both bills stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate, we must take the opportunity to put democracy reform and D.C. statehood front and center in the new Congress.

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. 

Take Action

Call your Representative and demand they support the D.C. statehood bill. 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.

Demand Your Representative support the Washington, D.C. 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.

 

Next Steps: Call your Incoming Members of Congress

H.R. 1 and D.C. statehood are the cornerstones of any democracy reform package. Call or tweet at your incoming Members of Congress and tell them to prioritize democracy reform, including D.C. statehood, as their top priority alongside pandemic relief.