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D.C. Residents Split on Statehood Push, Constitution

As the highly publicized presidential election nears, D.C. residents may also have to think critically about a vote toward a push for statehood and a new constitution.

Democrats in Ward 8 held a panel discussion Saturday to convey opposing views on statehood and the constitution that may follow, should citizens approve.

D.C. shadow Sen. Michael D. Brown, one of the panel speakers during the event, encouraged residents to vote “Yes” on statehood and consider revising the proposed constitution thereafter.

“For statehood, you could supplant the word equality — it is the only thing that makes us equal,” Brown said. “A constitution is something that can be amended. The important thing is to not lose sight that we need to make it a statehood.

“The 1982 constitution is gone, it is not an option, we can choose between the 1987 constitution, which replaced the 1982 constitution or the new constitution, but the new constitution is a more democratic document than the 1987 constitution and it will be voted on and ratified,” he said.

Though many District residents yearn for freedom from federal control, some are skeptical of what the new proposed constitution could mean for individual citizen rights.

Absalom Jordan, an original delegate to the 1982 constitutional convention and current member of local community group Delegates for Real Statehood, was not in favor of voting for statehood if it also automatically meant adopting a new constitution.

“I am opposed to this process and Brown is lying when he says this is a more democratic process,” Jordan said. “They don’t give us an option that [says] ‘yes, we are for statehood but no, we don’t want the constitution.’ The process that they tried to hide from us has not been transparent and in the documents that Brown submitted from the statehood commission, its says that because the 1987 constitution was never ratified, it does not have legal standing.”

In addition to improved rights and equalities for citizens should D.C. become the 51st state, structural offices will also be affected, including the mayor, who will be promoted to governor, the D.C. Council, who will be upgraded to a house of delegates, and the city itself, which will gain control of its judiciary.

On Sept. 27 at 11 a.m. and on Oct. 6 at 6:30 p.m., Council members will hold public meetings for residents that wish to discuss amendments to any bills and the new proposed constitution.

“I believe the 1982 constitution is the better constitution, but I am just working with what has been presented in front of me, and to my knowledge, the 1982 constitution is no longer a viable option at this point,” Brown said. “If we vote ‘yes’ this upcoming election, the vote will not have any legal authority, but allows us to go to Capitol Hill and say, ‘yes, this is what we want.'”

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Lauren M. Poteat

Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.

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