HL 108 – On the Pavement Thinkin’ About Statehood for Washington, D.C.

June 30, 2020

Home | Blog | HL 108 – On the Pavement Thinkin’ About Statehood for Washington, D.C.

We are fortunate that it’s more complicated and will take longer to purport to grant the District of Columbia statehood than remove Winston Churchill’s name from a Maryland high school up the Potomac from the Capital.  During that elongation let’s think about what we are trying to do, why and the foreseeable consequences.

An important point of reference is the widespread and well-founded disdain for the Electoral College.  Since its meetings in January 2001 and January 2017, HL has received hundreds of solicitations from progressive groups seeking support and financial contribution toward efforts to abolish or reform the College.  Many pretend that the changes can be accomplished without amending the Constitution.

We haven’t expended much time on these DOA proposals but have been wondering whether their proponents are merely ignorant or simply believe that lefties like HL will reflexively pony up.  There now are “fifty nifty United States from thirteen original colonies” and with 10 states having more than half the U.S. population, every resident in every one of the 40 other states has more power in the College, meaning in presidential elections than residents in the top 10.  At the extreme, involving a comparison of California with Wyoming, the power disparity means a Wyomingite’s vote weighs almost four times as much as a Californian’s in each presidential election.  That grotesque imbalance and unfairness is of course an artifact of the Connecticut Compromise that allowed the more perfect union to form with all states, large and small, populous or sparsely populated, having two Senators each.  That gives the Wyoming resident 68 times as much representation in the upper house as a Californian.

Similar but gradually less extreme disparities in voting power and representation exist when comparing residents of Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, the Dakotas et al. and people that reside in California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania and so on.

It’s obvious that neither members of Congress nor legislatures from the less populous states would vote to amend the Constitution to drastically diminish their constituents voting and representational power.[1]  Until the fundamental nature of this human specie radically changes we’re stuck with the College.  This November, HL‘s vote in New York will weigh less than a third as much as one cast by a Wyoming resident and less than half as much as the vote of a resident of D.C. – where license plates read “Taxation Without Representation” with good cause – while enjoying greater and unequal power in the College, bestowed on D.C. by the 23rd Amendment in 1961.

The discrimination against people in populous states is doubled and redoubled by their inferiority in Congressional representation, principally in the Senate.  That Wyoming 68 – California 1, Wyoming 34 – New York 1 disparity.

Why compound this injustice, this severe discrimination against people in populous states by adding D.C., that would become the third least populous state and translate to D.C. 56 and 28 to California and New York 1.  Why build on and into that gross inequity?

Why add that injustice to the one that D.C. suffers from and the one its residents benefit from in the Electoral College?  The same construct that the proponents of D.C. statehood say must also die – but cannot be killed – as they well know.  Why?  Because of the temporary demography of the District, whose population is 45% African-American.  Perhaps that is reason enough.  However, we are confident bordering on certain that D.C.’s demography will change, and fast if statehood is granted.  The two requisite Senators and single House member D.C. the state would have would be a powerful magnet for attracting investors and gentrifiers who would flood the District in this tiny potential state (four percent the size of Rhode Island) so potentially powerful in Articles I and II elections and representation.

Nia Nal

That’s food for thought before confronting the constitutional barriers to D.C. statehood that are substantial but solvable.  Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 very precisely provides for what D.C. became and is – a place “not exceeding ten miles square” ceded by two states (Maryland and Virginia) to the federal government and under its exclusive authority.  Consequentially untouched by the dual sovereignty model and values of federalism.

The new teeny tiny D.C. Capital of the United States that would be carved out of the existing District, not from “cession of particular states”, as the Constitution requires, would still have those three votes in the Electoral College granted by the 23rd Amendment.  Thumbelina D.C.’s three electors would give each of the say 5000 residents 400 and 800 times the presidential voting power of a New Yorker or Californian.  Endowed with such power we might call them Wonderwomen, Supermen and Nia Nals.

Susan Rice

If all this were purportedly accomplished by mere statute, as proponents such as Ambassador Susan Rice assert it can, years of constitutional litigation would follow.  The clean way to give D.C. statehood is by amending the Constitution.  Such amendment could confer statehood while also addressing the 23rd Amendment problem and possibly the super-representational status that this tiny and less populated state would otherwise erect for the investors who quickly would exploit and capitalize on the once in 231 years opportunity.  A single Senator is one possibility, though we think not great, as it would upset the till now even number of Senators and the occasional role of the Veep to break ties.

Liberals are marching, masking and holding our collective breaths until November 3 and January 20 in hopeful expectation of the fall of Trump and McConnell’s Senate.  During that time, it is wise to consider the implications of D.C. statehood, the proper mechanism for its accomplishment and the composition and powers of this potentially unique state.  Simply building it on and with old and flawed materials is a very bad idea.


[1]  Under Article V, the normal procedure for amending the Constitution would not apply to any amendment depriving a state of its two Senators.  That would require the state’s consent.


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