“No taxation without representation” is one of the founding tenets of our country. It’s what incited the Revolutionary War and what thousands of Americans lost their lives to gain. Our democracy was established in defiance of unjust taxation without representation, yet most Americans would be surprised to learn that it is still imposed on the people of our nation’s capital to this day.
More than 700K Washington DC residents lack essential voting rights and political representation
Washington DC is the heart of our democracy, but it’s also a thriving community of 712,000 Americans. These Americans carry all of the burdens of citizenship. But, because DC is not a state, they lack essential voting rights and representation. The people of DC pay more in federal taxes than 22 states, including the highest federal taxes per capita in the nation, and have a larger population than both Vermont and Wyoming. Yet, DC has no governor or voting members of Congress to represent the needs of this vibrant, diverse community. In fact, the situation is such an egregious infringement of civil rights that the UN Human Rights Committee has deemed it a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
It’s important to recognize, however, that this isn’t a singular issue. The impact of DC’s lack of statehood is far-reaching for the people who live there: it is a voting rights issue, a social justice issue, and even a public health and safety issue. Of DC’s 712,000 citizens, 54% are people of color and 46% are Black. Denying DC statehood is systemic disenfranchisement that exacerbates the structural inequities already endured by people of color. For instance, DC’s COVID-19 relief funding has been severely limited because it isn’t a state. The District only received about half of what the 50 states were given through the 2020 CARES Act. This is especially unconscionable given how the pandemic has disproportionately impacted people of color across the board, from mortality rates to job loss.
Just this year, the Capitol riots exposed the social injustices caused by the lack of state-elected officials. In most states, the Governor can call on the National Guard for emergency protection. In DC, this authority is given to the President. On January 6th, while the District was terrorized by far-right Trump supporters, the Trump Administration refused to expeditiously act upon requests from both Mayor Bowser and former US Capitol Police Chief Sund to have the National Guard deescalate the deadly attacks. As we saw, by the time they intervened, irreparable damage had already been done.
So, why isn’t Washington DC a state?
Originally, it was to give the federal government exclusive control of all capital government buildings. However, the people who created these laws could never have anticipated that the District would one day be home to nearly one million people. There is also a common misconception that it is unconstitutional to give DC statehood. This is categorically false. The Constitution stipulates the maximum amount of space that the national capital can occupy (10 square miles), but does not set a minimum. If DC is granted statehood, the state lines would be drawn to exclude federal government buildings, keeping them within a 2-square mile area that remains under federal control.
In more recent history, Congressional Republicans have resisted DC statehood as it would reduce their party’s legislative power. 76% of DC voters are registered as Democrats and would most likely elect Democratic representatives. However, with a new era of American politics beginning, and the Democrats in control of both the House and Senate, DC statehood is finally within reach.
The DC for 51 Campaign
At Entertain Impact, we’re calling to make DC statehood a national priority. DC’s lack of statehood is antithetical to our country’s fundamental principles and the beliefs of those who authored our Constitution. Taxation without representation is as unjust today as it was 250 years ago and we should not let it continue. This is why we have launched a non-profit public awareness and action campaign, DC for 51, to encourage Americans across the country to support DC statehood and call on their senators to do the same.
On this World Day of Social Justice, we invite you to take 2 minutes to contact your congressional representative and help give rights to 712,000 disenfranchised Americans. Click here for an easy-to-use contact form (no phone calls required!).
This article was written by Kristine Moffitt.
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