D.C. Mayor Pushes for Vote to Make Capital 51st State

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser / AP
April 15, 2016

Muriel Bowser, the Democratic mayor of Washington, D.C., is leading an effort to put statehood on the district’s ballot in the November election.

Bowser on Friday demanded a citywide vote to make the U.S. capital the 51st state, the Washington Post reported.

"I propose we take another bold step toward democracy in the District of Columbia," Bowser said during a breakfast event honoring the anniversary of D.C.’s emancipation from slavery.

"It’s going to require that we send a bold message to the Congress and the rest of the country, that we demand not only a vote in the House of Representatives. We demand two senators--the full rights of citizenship in this great nation," Bowser said.

The D.C. mayor plans to propose legislation this summer that will put statehood on the district’s ballot in November.

Aides to the mayor told the Post that a push for statehood would follow the "Tennessee model," which refers to how Tennessee transitioned from a federal territory to statehood as the 16th state. Tennessee did not need to be ratified by the other states. Instead, Congress required the territory’s residents vote to approve a state constitution.

Residents in the nation’s capital voted to approve a state constitution in 1982, which was later submitted by then-Mayor Marion Barry but ignored by Congress.

Bowser said Friday that D.C. voters face injustice because their "zip codes" restrict them from having a voice in Congress. Washington residents have the right to representation from lawmakers "stolen" from them, she said.

As D.C. is largely Democratic, the statehood change could prove an advantage for Democratic lawmakers. However, Bowser said Friday that the issue should not be a partisan one.

"Some in Congress say ... the reason why D.C. residents can’t have full access to the franchise is because of too many Democrats," the mayor said. "Can you believe that? Do you think access to democracy is a Democratic or Republican issue? No, it’s an American issue."