Photo by Eileen Salazaar. A 'Statehood Yes' sign in Washington D.C.
WASHINGTON — Today, Washingtonians overwhemingly voted “yes” for statehood.
According to NBC Washington, “79 percent of precincts” reported that 86 percent approved the advisory referendum for the statehood initiative, while 14 percent opposed.
However, the overwhelming result doesn’t mean that Washington D.C. will become America’s 51st state tomorrow.
Because D.C. is not yet a state, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Senators Paul Strauss and Michael D. Brown, who are sometimes referred to as D.C.’s “shadow” Congress members, currently do not have seats in Congress.
However, Senator Brown, says while the process will be daunting, it is well worth the ride once it gets through Congress.
“[We] still have to put in an enabling act which is legislation to create the state,” he said.
“We have a bill now, in both houses of Congress, and it has 153 cosponsors which is the most that a bill like this has ever had. So, we have 133 in the House of Reps and 20 in the Senate, so we’d have to go back through that process where the bill was introduced to both houses and pass both houses.”
“So the referendum passing doesn’t guarantee anything in Congress. It just gives us a little more clout and ammunition. Some bills take rather quickly in a few months — It could take 100 years, it all depends. So, how long it takes? That’s anybody’s guess. This is just one more weapon in the battle toward statehood,” Senator Brown said.
Campaign Director of Statehood YES! Campaign, Desmond Serrette, believed that the additional support from other politicians definitely increased the positive energy needed for voters to say “yes”.
“I wasn’t there in the 80’s, but I can tell you what I see now which is a lot of really great energy — a lot of conversation about this,” he said.
Photo by Eileen Salazar. Voters get information in Washington D.C.
D.C. residents have been saying “yes” to statehood for years.
Lois Brown, who’s been a resident for 65 years, voted “yes” so she could see D.C. get the same rights as other states.
“Well, I would like to see it so that we can get the proper representation from the District. We can’t vote on anything that’s happening that the other states can. I would like to see equal opportunity — but at my age, sweetheart, you make the best of it,” Ms. Brown said.
Janice Wheeler, who’s lived in Southeast D.C. for most of her life, agreed with that sentiment.
“We need a voice and be able to make our own decisions with Congress interfering,” she said. “This has been an issue for entirely too long. Let’s make it happen!”
In April, various Republicans, such as Governor John Kasich (R-OH), argued against the initiative, worried about the Democratic votes it could potentially bring in.
“It’s really become a partisan issue,” Senator Brown said. “We have 153 cosponsors, but not one Republican and the reason why they stand against it, is because we really don’t have Republicans in the D.C. They see that we would have two Democratic senators and a Democratic representative forever.”
“They used the same argument when Alaska and Hawaii came in. Which is funny because there’s only been one Democrat elected in Alaska. So, Republicans are not only afraid of getting two democrats but two liberal democrats,” he said.
Regardless of the lack of the nationwide Republican government support, the D.C. GOP definitely supported it.
The highlighted reasons why residents voted “yes” to this year’s statehood initiative stem from the financial break for D.C. residents in terms of commuter tax and finally gaining representation in Congress.
D.C. Taxpayers Could Get a Financial Break
Senator Brown concluded that this year’s initiative is for the greater good of the city.
“The benefits so far outweigh any costs,” he claimed. “For example, in D.C., we’re not allowed to tax anybody from out of the state — and because 60 percent of the work force lives in Maryland and Virginia, 40 percent of us [from D.C.] pay for everything.”
In July, the Washington Post revealed that out of 35,302 employees in D.C., 15,191 actually live in the city. With the initiative in place, D.C. could consider enforcing a commuter’s tax, shifting some financial weight from current residents.
No More “No Taxation without Representation”
Serrette says that this initiative works best for everyone, because it’ll give the city a chance to vote on their own laws without Congress’ heavy influence.
Photo by EIleen Salazar. A voter with a 'I voted' sticker.
“It’ll help the city and residents because Statehood will give us the opportunity to have federal representation,” he said. “We pay taxes, we die in wars, so we should have the equal vote and equal voice in Congress and also the ability to pass laws without Congress meddling in our affairs — in autonomy.”
On Saturday, Reuters reported that Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said the “yes” vote is a step toward stopping Congress from interfering with local issues such as “abortion and marijuana legalization”.
Because Congress has blocked attempts for D.C. to legalize, regulate and tax the sale of marijuana, which is something that D.C could benefit from the multimillion dollar revenue.
No one knows how long the road to D.C. statehood will take. However, the nation’s capital is demanding that Congress seriously considers it.