A Place for DC Among the States

by Tricia Correia

In 1970, Sam Smith wrote in the D.C. Gazette that the D.C. Statehood movement was not proceeding at the speed most thought it would. “Instead,” Smith wrote, “we have annual piddling negotiations on the Hill that move the cause ahead with all the haste of a paraplegic turtle climbing the Washington Monument.” This same assessment held for 44 years until very recently, when the discussion of D.C. Statehood gained fresh momentum.

I have lived in Washington, D.C., off and on for three and a half years. I pay D.C. taxes on the paychecks I receive from my two jobs in the District. I am affected by matters decided by the D.C. government. I am heavily involved in the D.C. mayoral race. But, I do not vote in D.C.

College students have the option to either retain their residency and voter registration in the state where their family is located or to register in the state where they are living while in school. As a D.C. college student, I currently carry a Minnesota driver’s license and am registered to vote in Minnesota — because I want my vote to count. The majority of D.C. college students I talk to do the same because, like me, they are not ready to throw away their voting rights. Registering to vote in D.C. effectively does that.

Granting D.C. statehood would encourage tens of thousands of college students and many would-be D.C. residents to live and register in D.C. and to vote for representatives who will truly give the District the voice it needs on Capitol Hill. Many of those who work in D.C. are fleeing to nearby suburbs in Virginia and Maryland, taking their tax revenues and economic contributions with them, in order to be treated as full U.S. citizens and given representatives in both the House and the Senate. For the future of all D.C. residents, D.C. must gain voting representation.

Is D.C. statehood the answer to this problem? Perhaps. Logistically, D.C. statehood makes sense. More citizens live in the District of Columbia than in either Wyoming or Vermont — a total of 646,499 people. This alone proves that D.C. statehood is not an altogether outlandish concept. While some argue that D.C.’s land mass is too small to be considered a state, it is my opinion that land mass does not matter when debating the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens.

However, while I am all for D.C. statehood, I do not believe in the all-or-nothing approach for this movement. It is pragmatic to consider alternatives to statehood that can still increase the rights of D.C. citizens. For example, D.C. could be given two voting congressmen, as D.C. currently has no voting representatives. My only qualm with this option is that our bicameral legislature is designed for both chambers to have delegates from each state or district, not just one chamber. However, if this compromise can act as a stepping stone in the process of D.C. gaining full representation or statehood, I am all for it.

Another option includes retroceding D.C. to Maryland. This grants D.C. residents the benefits of living in a state without granting D.C. statehood. One drawback, however, is that this forces citizens of a city to become accountable to a state that they did not choose to live in. It also forces the state of Maryland to adjust to having 646,499 new residents and taxpayers with their own distinct needs. Convincing those involved to proceed with this option would be nearly impossible. Although I do not agree with this alternative, I find merit in considering all alternatives offered to solve this problem.

License plates in D.C. read “Taxation Without Representation” because that is exactly what’s happening. Just like the colonists at the Boston Tea Party, it’s time for D.C. residents to stand up and make it clear that we have had enough. Eventually, D.C. will need to become the 51st state; however, a pragmatic approach to this movement is necessary. Any form of representation that D.C. gains is good in my book. After all, those living in a city that is so central and vital to the national government should not be the furthest away from having involvement in that government.

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