Advocates for D.C. statehood say they won’t let the recent defeat of voting rights bills in the U.S. Senate stop them from seeking to make the city the 51st state of the Union.
During the week of Jan. 17-20, the U.S. Senate failed to consider the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 and The Freedom to Vote Act of 2021 because Democrats didn’t have the required 60 votes to bring the legislation to the floor.
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), a member of the U.S. House of Representatives which passed both bills, said she anticipated the outcome.
“The two voting rights bills that failed were put forth on purpose,” Norton said to The Informer. “We knew they would fail. What we are trying to do is galvanize our base for the November midterm elections.”
The fate of the voting rights bills serves as a barometer for what a D.C. statehood bill could possibly face in the Senate, DC Vote Executive Director Bo Shuff said. DC Vote works to secure full voting rights in the U.S. Congress for District residents.
Norton passed the D.C. statehood bill in the House for the second straight year last April and the U.S. Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing in June on a companion bill authored by U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.).
Carper’s bill has 46 co-sponsors, the most ever, including the support of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
However, no Republicans have co-sponsored the bill and Democrat Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) believes the District can only become a state through the constitutional amendment process. Democrat Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and independent Angus King (Maine) haven’t revealed their thoughts on Carper’s legislation.
Statehood is Alive on Capitol Hill, Norton Says
Norton said D.C. statehood legislation has a chance due to the White House, the Senate and the House controlled by Democrats. However, she did note the possibility of Democrats losing control of the House in November.
Nevertheless, she said presently, “statehood is doing well in the Congress.”
“We have had two votes in the House supporting statehood and a committee hearing in the Senate and there will be another committee hearing, also,” she said. “I am pleased with the progress we are making and we are determined to move forward.”
Dr. Ravi K. Perry, chairman of the Howard University Political Science Department and the new vice chairman of the board of DC Vote, said District residents need to make the case to their fellow Americans for statehood.
“It makes no sense to talk about voting rights and not talk about the lack of voting representation in the U.S. Congress for D.C. residents,” Perry said. “We are the only American citizens who pay federal taxes and have military obligations when ordered to do so by the federal government but don’t have full voting representation in the Congress. This is the nation’s capital. We deserve the ability to free exercise our voting rights in this democratic republic.”
A New Statehood Campaign Unfolds
Josh Burch serves as the organizer and educator for Neighbors United for DC Statehood (NUDS). He expressed “super disappointment” with the failure of the voting rights bills but said he’ll continue his statehood efforts.
Burch’s latest project targets King and NUDS has started a postcard writing campaign to Maine voters.
The project will be for District residents and statehood supporters throughout the country. They will be asked to write postcards directly to Maine voters requesting them to call King’s office and request that he cosponsor the D.C. statehood bill. The effort formally launched on Feb. 2.
“We believe a steady flow of phone calls to his office will result in him cosponsoring this bill,” Burch said. “We are partnering with Democracy Maine on this project and have their full support.”