2016 Washington, D.C. statehood referendum

A referendum on statehood for the District of Columbia was held on November 8, 2016. It was the second referendum on statehood to be held in the district. The District of Columbia was created following the passage of the Residence Act on July 9, 1790, which approved the creation of a national capital, the City of Washington on the Potomac River.

District of Columbia statehood referendum, 2016
LocationDistrict of Columbia
DateNovember 8, 2016; 3 years ago (2016-11-08)
Voting systemsimple majority
Votes %
Yes 244,134 85.69%
No 40,779 14.31%
Valid votes 284,913 91.59%
Invalid or blank votes 26,154 8.41%
Total votes 311,067 100.00%
Registered voters/turnout 478,688 64.98%

District of Columbia voters were asked to advise the Council to approve or reject a proposal, which included advising the council to petition Congress to admit the District as the 51st State and to approve a constitution and boundaries for the new state. The voters of the District of Columbia voted overwhelmingly to advise the Council to approve the proposal, with 86% of voters voting to advise approving the proposal.[1]



On July 9, 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which approved the creation of a national capital on the Potomac River. The exact location was to be selected by President George Washington, who signed the bill into law on July 16. Formed from land donated by the states of Maryland and Virginia, the initial shape of the federal district was a square measuring 10 miles (16 km) on each side, totaling 100 square miles (259 km2).[2][a]

Congress passed the Organic Act of 1801, which officially organized the District and placed the entire territory under the exclusive control of the federal government. Further, the unincorporated area within the District was organized into two counties: the County of Washington to the east of the Potomac and the County of Alexandria to the west.[3] After the passage of this Act, citizens living in the District were no longer considered residents of Maryland or Virginia, which therefore ended their representation in Congress.[4]

The Virginia General Assembly voted in February 1846 to accept the return of Alexandria and on July 9, 1846, Congress agreed to return all the territory that had been ceded by Virginia. Therefore, the District's current area consists only of the portion originally donated by Maryland. Confirming the fears of pro-slavery Alexandrians, the Compromise of 1850 outlawed the slave trade in the District, although not slavery itself.[5]

Voting rights and home ruleEdit

In 1961, the Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, granting the District three votes in the Electoral College for the election of president and vice president, but still no voting representation in Congress.[6]

In 1973, Congress enacted the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, providing for an elected mayor and 13-member council for the District.[7]

Earlier attempts at statehoodEdit

Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1 of the Constitution gives the Congress power to grant statehood. If the District were to become a state, congressional authority over the District would be terminated and residents would have full voting representation in both houses of the Congress. However, there are a number of constitutional considerations with any such statehood proposal.

In 1980, local citizens passed an initiative calling for a constitutional convention for a new state. In 1982, voters ratified the constitution of a new state to be called "New Columbia".[8] This campaign for statehood stalled. After the District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment expired in 1985, another constitution for the state of New Columbia was drafted in 1987.[8] The House of Representatives last voted on D.C. statehood in November 1993 and the proposal was defeated by a vote of 277 to 153. Like retrocession, it has been argued that D.C. statehood would erode the principle of a separate federal territory as the seat of the federal government and that a constitutional amendment would be needed to avoid a violation of the Constitution's District Clause.[9]

In July 2014, President Barack Obama became the second sitting President, after Bill Clinton in 1993, to endorse statehood for the District of Columbia. In a town-hall event, he said "I'm for it." He added that "folks in D.C. pay taxes like everybody else, they contribute to the overall well being of the country like everybody else, they should be treated like everybody else," Obama said in response to a question. "There has been a long movement to get D.C. statehood and I've been for it for quite some time. The politics of it end up being difficult to get through Congress, but I think it's absolutely the right thing to do."[10][11] D.C. residents now pay more in taxes than 22 states.[12]

For more than 20 years following the 1993 floor vote, there were no congressional hearings on D.C. Statehood. But on September 15, 2014, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs held a hearing on bill S. 132, which would have created a new state out of the current District of Columbia, similar to the 1993 bill.[13]

Modern statehood movementEdit

On April 15, 2016, District Mayor Muriel Bowser called for a citywide vote on whether the District should become the 51st state.[14] This was followed by the release of a proposed state constitution.[15] This constitution would make the Mayor of the District of Columbia the governor of the proposed state, while the members of the City Council would make up the proposed House of Delegates.

On July 10, 2016, the DC council unanimously approved the referendum. If the proposal is approved by the people, the DC council will take a vote to approve the measure.[16]


The District of Columbia voters were asked whether to advise the District Council approve or reject a four-part proposal, where advising the council to approve the proposal would establish that the citizens of the District of Columbia (1) agree that the District should be admitted to the Union as the State of New Columbia; (2) approve of a Constitution of the State of New Columbia to be adopted by the Council; (3) approve the State of New Columbia's boundaries, as adopted by the New Columbia Statehood Commission on June 28, 2016; and (4) agree that the State of New Columbia shall guarantee an elected representative form of government.[17]

However, while “New Columbia” appeared on voting ballots, the Council of the District of Columbia passed legislation changing the name of the proposed state to the "State of Washington, D.C." Under this proposed name "D.C." stands for "Douglass Commonwealth," a reference to the historic abolitionist Frederick Douglass.[18][19]

Proposed ConstitutionEdit


Proposed boundaries

The boundaries of the proposed state would be about the same as the boundaries of the District, except for a small area around the National Mall and the White House, which would allow for the federal government to maintain control over a much smaller district.[20]

It is widely believed that these proposed boundaries would give voting representation to all residents of the district. In reality, however, the proposed boundaries would still have at least 13 residents within the district as of the 2010 Census.

Government structureEdit

The legislative branch of the proposed state government would consist of an unicameral 21-member Legislative Assembly. Each representative to this legislature would serve four year terms. The Governor of the proposed state would serve 4-year terms and be elected in even years where there is no federal presidential election. When a vacancy occurs in the office, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly would be the acting Governor until a special election occurs, which would occur at least 70 days, but no more than 174 days after the office becomes vacant. The proposed state would also become responsible for their own judicial system, which is currently funded by the federal government. The Attorney General would remain an independently elected office, while DC would no longer have to submit laws or budgets to Congress for approval.[21]

Two years after the proposed state is admitted to the union, a constitutional convention would be called to make changes to the state constitution, and any changes would be voted on for approval or rejection by the voters of the proposed state.


In this election, when asked the referendum question, "Shall the voters of the District of Columbia advise the Council to approve or reject this proposal," this was the tally of the final vote:

Advisory Referendum B
Choice Votes %
  Yes 244,134 85.69
No 40,779 14.31
Valid votes 284,913 91.59
Invalid or blank votes 26,154 8.41
Total votes 311,067 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 478,688 64.98
Source: [22]

Challenges aheadEdit

While the people voted in favor of statehood, numerous challenges still exist that might hamper creation of the state, including lack of Congressional support: DC currently does not have voting-level congressional representation, and the national Republican Party is against the idea of statehood,[23] due in part to political concerns that DC statehood would be detrimental to the Republican Party since the new state would likely send an entirely Democratic delegation to Congress.[24]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "DC Voters Elect Gray to Council, Approve Statehood Measure". 4 NBC Washington. November 9, 2016. Retrieved November 9, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Crew, Harvey W.; William Bensing Webb; John Wooldridge (1892). Centennial History of the City of Washington, D. C. Dayton, Ohio: United Brethren Publishing House. pp. 89–92.
  3. ^ Crew, Harvey W.; William Bensing Webb; John Wooldridge (1892). "IV. Permanent Capital Site Selected". Centennial History of the City of Washington, D. C. Dayton, Ohio: United Brethren Publishing House. p. 103.
  4. ^ "Statement on the subject of The District of Columbia Fair and Equal Voting Rights Act" (PDF). American Bar Association. September 14, 2006. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  5. ^ "Compromise of 1850". Library of Congress. September 21, 2007. Retrieved July 24, 2008.
  6. ^ "Twenty-Third Amendment". CRS Annotated Constitution. Legal Information Institute (Cornell University Law School). Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  7. ^ "District of Columbia Home Rule Act". Government of the District of Columbia. February 1999. Retrieved May 27, 2008.
  8. ^ a b "District of Columbia Official Code". Westlaw. 2009. Retrieved May 3, 2009.
  9. ^ Pate, Hewitt R. (August 27, 1993). "D.C. Statehood: Not Without a Constitutional Amendment". The Heritage Foundation. Archived from the original on March 15, 2009. Retrieved December 29, 2008.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 22, 2014. Retrieved July 21, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Obama on D.C. statehood: 'I'm for it!'". Usatoday.com. July 21, 2014. Retrieved July 7, 2016.
  12. ^ "D.C. paid more in taxes". July 29, 2016. Archived from the original on August 9, 2016.
  13. ^ Simpson, Ian. "Senate holds hearing on District of Columbia statehood". Reuters. Retrieved September 15, 2014.
  14. ^ Austermuhle, Martin. "Mayor Wants Statehood Vote This Year By D.C. Residents". WAMU 88.5. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  15. ^ Giambrone, Andrew. "D.C. Statehood Commission Will Release Draft Constitution Next Friday". Washington City Paper. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
  16. ^ Davis, Aaron C. (July 12, 2016). "D.C. statehood measure approved for November ballot". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  17. ^ "Resolution 21-570, Advisory Referendum on the State of New Columbia Admission Act Resolution of 2016". DC Municipal Regulations. Archived from the original on August 18, 2016. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  18. ^ Giaritelli, Anna (October 18, 2016). "DC Council approves name change if city becomes state". The Washington Examiner. Retrieved October 19, 2016.
  19. ^ Kurzius, Rachel (October 18, 2016). "Council Tosses 'New Columbia,' Changes Constitution To 'The State Of Washington D.C.'". DCist. Archived from the original on November 16, 2016. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  20. ^ (PDF). statehood.dc.gov http://statehood.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/statehood/publication/attachments/Constitution-of-the-State-of-Washington-DC.pdf. Retrieved November 8, 2016. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  21. ^ Austermuhle, Martin (October 25, 2016). "If You're A D.C. Resident, Here's What You Need To Know About The Statehood Vote". WAMU. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  22. ^ "General Election 2016 - Certified Results". District of Columbia Board of Elections. November 8, 2016. Archived from the original on February 9, 2018. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  23. ^ . November 8, 2016 http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/nov/8/dc-votes-for-statehood-but-faces-long-road-to-cong/. Retrieved November 10, 2016. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. ^ https://thehill.com/homenews/house/462419-dc-statehood-push-faces-long-odds-despite-record-support
  1. ^ The Residence Act allowed the President to select a location within Maryland as far east as the Anacostia River. However, the District of Columbia shifted the federal territory's borders to the southeast in order to include the city of Alexandria at the District's southern tip. In 1791, Congress amended the Residence Act to approve the new site, including territory ceded by Virginia.[2]

External linksEdit

  • [1] DC Statehood