WASHINGTON — The 2020 election season saw 35 U.S. Senate races, but one jurisdiction still has no representation in Congress – the District of Columbia.
More than 700,000 people live in Washington, D.C. That’s more than Vermont or Wyoming. They pay federal taxes, but don’t control their own budget or laws and have no voting member in Congress.
Ty Hobson-Powell is a lead organizer at 51 for 51, a group advocating for D.C. to become the 51st state. He said although they fulfill obligations as everyday Americans, the majority of Black and Brown residents of the nation’s capital have no say in the laws and decisions Congress makes on their behalf.
“We pay the highest federal taxes, we send men and women to the services, we serve on juries,” Hobson-Powell said. “From a racial equity standpoint, you’re looking at enfranchising a population of people that has been left out of democracy for generations.”
This summer, the House of Representatives voted to grant statehood to D.C., which leans heavily Democratic. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he won’t bring it up for a vote in the Republican-dominated Senate, since it could mean two more Democratic senators.
Hobson-Powell noted D.C. statehood has become more urgent amid protests against police violence and President Donald Trump’s decision to deploy federal law enforcement against protesters.
If D.C. becomes a state, it would gain autonomy. It would also be able to impose sales, property and income taxes on the federal government, which uses local services but doesn’t pay local taxes.
Hobson-Powell said that revenue would help support badly needed social services.
“We would have a larger pool of money to draw from to allocate towards the things that we care about – things like affordable housing, things like gun violence prevention and interruption work,” he said. “We would be able to pass laws that reflect the local values of Washingtonians, and not be held hostage by Congress.”
He stressed the importance of educating people about this lack of representation. Many folks don’t realize, he said, that more than a half-million Americans are legally barred from the democratic process because they live in the District of Columbia.