By Nina Raneses, JCamp Reporter
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Washington Democrats used their platform at this year’s Democratic National Convention to advocate for D.C. statehood to a national audience, noting that a vote for the party nominee is a vote for true representation.
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Mayor Muriel E. Bowser introduced the District of Columbia as “the best city in the world,.” adding that the federal city would become the 51st state in the Union with support from the “next president of the United States,” referring to Hillary Clinton.
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The District’s only representative in Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), also spoke the next day saying she too endorsed Clinton in her push for D.C. statehood.
The roots of D.C.’s statehood movement go so deep the phrase “taxation without representation“ is emblazoned in blue on the District’s license plates to remind everyone they have a voice but no vote in Congress. Supporters of the movement argue that District residents pay federal taxes, serve in the military, attend jury duty and attend to all responsibilities of being an American citizen, yet do not have representation in the federal government equal to that of states. The District boasts a larger population than that of Wyoming and Vermont, states that do have representation in Congress.
While the proposal has been brought back to the spotlight through the convention and Clinton herself, who has publicly stated her support for D.C. statehood, some Americans, along with D.C. residents, are not certain that turning their city into a state would result in any significant changes.
“I think the capital should stay the way it is, I don’t see how [statehood] would change anything,” said D.C. resident Megan Meyers.
The attitudes of Capitol Hill visitors on Thursday echoed those of Meyers who is largely skeptical that statehood would yield any additional benefits to residents. While some federal workers on the Hill declined to have their names, they spoke freely about the District’s status and most agreed that the city should remain as it should.
Many other countries have including Mexico have federal districts that serve as buffer zones between the rest of the country and the federal government, some said. Those looking for representation in Congress can move to nearby Virginia or Maryland, they said.
According to a 2015 poll from the Washington Post, three out of four District residents support statehood, citing their concerns over federal oversight in municipal affairs. Despite having their government and developing their own budget locally, the federal government has final say over the fiscal decisions of the municipal government.
Federal interference can often change the legislative landscape of the District, as Congress has blocked D.C. from funding their marijuana decriminalization law to funding abortions for low-income residents in 2014.
Senate and House Republicans also play a crucial role in the District’s failure to be admitted as a state, because the city would be admitted as a blue state.
D.C. Statehood is an issue both presidential candidates have discussed. Clinton’s has long supported the nation’s capital in its campaign for equal representation. However Trump’s position is less clear. While initially expressing support for statehood in 2015, he told Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” months later that his opining on the issue was a conflict for his business interests in the city, including the forthcoming Trump hotel.
As the election season rolls forward, it remains to be seen whether the nearly two-century long conflict over D.C. Statehood will be debated on the national stage.