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Chris Myers Asch grew up in D.C. His mother still lives there. He now lives in Maine and he urges his senators in Maine to support statehood for D.C. In this column, published in the Maine Press Herald, he explains why the District should gain statehood and why the residents of the District should have the right to vote. Asch teaches at Colby College and is the author of Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capitol.
My mom is an amazing American. The only child of a Census Bureau statistician and a Jewish social scientist (who fled her native Germany because of the Nazis), she was born and raised in the nation’s capital. She had two children while attending medical school and another (me!) in Laos, where she practiced medicine as my father served in Vietnam. She worked in pediatrics and later in a drug clinic, then spent the last 15 years of her career caring for veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She has lived an extraordinary life of service.
But she can’t vote.
My mom and over 700,000 American citizens – 32,000 of whom are veterans – have no voting representatives or senators in Congress because they happen to live in Washington, D.C. That’s right. The people who reside in the capital of the world’s foremost democracy do not actually get to participate fully in that democracy. They can vote for president, but in Congress all they have are a “Non-Voting Delegate” and a “Shadow Senator,” neither of whom has full voting rights...
The power to create new states rests entirely with Congress. Last summer, with support from Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, the House of Representatives voted 232-180 to turn D.C. into a state, the first D.C. statehood bill ever to pass a house of Congress. The bill is scheduled to be introduced in the Senate on Friday, and we need both Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins to get on board as well.
Some critics say D.C. is too small too have statehood, but it has a larger population than Maine or Wyoming. Furthermore, the people of D.C. pay more taxes than the people of 22 states.
It is time. The District of Columbia should become a state, with representation in Congress.