Frequently Asked Questions about Statehood for the People of DC
What is Washington, DC?
- Washington, DC, isn't a state; it's a district. DC stands for District of Columbia. Its creation comes directly from the US Constitution, which provides that the district, "not exceeding 10 Miles square," would "become the Seat of the Government of the United States."
- Congress established the federal district in 1790 to serve as the nation's capital, from land belonging to the states of Maryland and Virginia. The Constitution dictates that the federal district be under the jurisdiction of the US Congress.
- Washington, DC operates as a state while also performing functions of a city and a county.
- We are treated as a state in more than 500 federal laws.
- We are leaders in a region of 4 million people and growing. We operate our own school system, we manage our own SNAP and Medicaid programs and receive federal block grants that are typically awarded to states, such as workforce training grants, Community Development Block Grants for housing, Ryan White funding to combat HIV, and Violence Against Women Act grants.
Why do the residents of Washington, DC want statehood?
- The people of Washington, DC deserve the same rights that the people in the 50 states enjoy. District residents are required to fulfill all the obligations of U.S. citizenship
- paying taxes,
- voting, and
- serving on juries and in the military.
- Yet for over 200 years, we have been denied a voice in our national government and sovereignty over our local affairs. Admitting the residential and commercial parts of DC as a state will at last give us representation in Congress and control over our state and local government.
How will statehood be achieved?
- Statehood will be achieved by the House and Senate passing and the President signing legislation admitting the new state.
- Statehood legislation, which requires a simple majority vote and cannot be repealed, is the way that every state, except for the original 13, became part of the United States.
- The people of the District of Columbia have voted in support of statehood, have approved a state constitution, a representative form of government and the proposed boundaries.
- The next step is Congressional passage of statehood legislation such as the State of Washington DC Admission Act, which was introduced in the 117th Congress.
Wouldn’t it make more sense for DC to join neighboring Maryland or Virginia?
- The District of Columbia has been separate from Maryland and Virginia for over 200 years.
- While DC, Maryland, and Virginia work cooperatively on many regional issues, neither Maryland nor Virginia residents are interested in annexing the District of Columbia. Likewise, DC residents prefer the full autonomy that only Statehood can provide.
- Nineteen Members of Congress from Maryland and Virginia are sponsoring the Washington Admission Act in the 117th Congress.
Does Washington, DC have representation in Congress?
- Yes and no. DC’s Delegate in the US House of Representatives (currently Eleanor Holmes Norton) can sit on and vote in Committees, can introduce legislation, can participate in legislative debates, but she cannot vote on bills being considered by the full House. Washington, DC has no representation in the Senate—meaning that district residents, who pay some of the highest rates of federal tax, have no say in federally appointed positions, such as the president's cabinet or those serving as US ambassadors to foreign countries. It also means Washington residents have no voice in the confirmation of judges to the federal bench, or in the confirmation process for justices to the US Supreme Court.
Is it Constitutional for the federal district to be reduced in size and the residential and commercial portions of DC to become a State?
- Yes. Article I. Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution sets only a maximum size (“…not exceeding ten Miles square…”) for the federal “Seat of the Government of the United States”. Congress has the authority to redefine the borders of the federal district.
- Congress did so, for instance, in 1846 when a portion of the original territory of the District of Columbia west of the Potomac River was retroceded to Virginia.
Does Washington, DC vote for US president?
- Yes. The 23rd Amendment to the US Constitution was adopted in 1961, giving Washington has three electoral votes for president and vice president.
If DC becomes the 51st State, what will happen to the federal seat of government, monuments and museums?
This area is unpopulated, will be clearly mapped and will remain in place under federal jurisdiction as the District of Columbia. Only the residential and commercial areas of the District of Columbia will be part of the new 51st State. Of course, these areas include some federal properties that will continue to function just as all federal properties do in the 50 states.
Can DC afford to be a State?
- Yes. Washington, DC now operates as if it were a State and its vibrant urban economy has a bigger gross domestic product than many States.
- DC residents pay federal taxes – more per capita than any state and more total federal taxes than 12 states. In fact, we are a donor state, meaning DC gives more in federal tax dollars than we receive. The same cannot be said for the vast majority of states.
- DC has balanced its budgets year-after-year for at least 20 years and has a AAA bond rating, a rating higher than 35 states.
- Local taxes, not federal dollars, constitute the vast majority of the District’s budget.
- Who lives in the District of Columbia?
- Everyday Americans. Taxpaying American citizens.
- The 712,000 people who call Washington, D.C. home are like any other Americans. From teachers and nurses to fire-fighters and custodians, Washingtonians raise families, pay taxes, and fight in America’s wars.
- The District is a diverse group: 47% Black of African American, 41% White, 4% Asian and 11% are of Hispanic origins Just like you, we raise our families, pay our taxes, serve on juries, fight for our country, and work together to create strong caring communities.
- Just like you, we deserve the rights and representation enjoyed by Americans who live in the 50 states.
Isn’t DC too small to be a State?
- No. The population of the District of Columbia is nearly 712,000+ more than the States of Wyoming and Vermont. In any case, there are no population or geographic size criteria for Statehood in the US Constitution.
When was the last time Congress voted on statehood for Washington, DC?
- Legislation was introduced in 2020 and passed the Democrat-dominated House by a vote of 232-180. It was the first time that a chamber of Congress had passed such legislation. The legislation was supported by all but one Democrat and has the strong support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland.
- The bill was stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate, where then Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to bring it for a vote. The Senate has never voted on a Washington statehood bill.
Why not go retrocede back to Maryland?
- That decision is for DC residents alone—which their vote was clear during the 2016 referendum with an 86% in favor of DC Statehood. Under Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, commonly referred to as the Admission Clause: “New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.”
- DC voters have already said loud and clear that we do not want retrocession, we want statehood.
Where do things stand now with DC’s path towards becoming the 51st State and what would happen if the bill is passed?
- The State of Washington DC Admission Act has been introduced in both the Senate and the House with multiple co-sponsors representing many States.
- The next step is to pass such legislation and get it signed into law. To do that will require the support of Americans from DC and across the country, the support of a majority in the US Congress, and the support of the President
- The companion bills carve out a 2-mile radius to be called the National Capital Service Area, which includes federal buildings, such as the White House, Capitol, Supreme Court and the National Mall. This becomes the seat of the federal government as defined in the Constitution.
- The rest of Washington, made up of the parts of the city where people actually live, would then become the 51st state, called "Douglass Commonwealth." This would allow the new state to keep its DC abbreviation and also pay homage to Frederick Douglass, the social reformer and abolitionist. Based on its population, the new state would get one representative in the House, and two Senators.
- The mayor of Washington would get the new title of governor. And the District Council would function as a state legislative body. Washington would be granted the same rights as any other state. This means the governor would have the ability to activate the National Guard in an emergency.