Monday, 01 September 2014 02:22

DC Democracy and Statehood Timeline

Written by Anise Jenkins |
DC Statehood Activists line the streets in 1920s DC Statehood Activists line the streets in 1920s DC Public Library

The fight for equality for the residents of Washington DC started in the very early 1800's when the Organic Act of 1801 established the U.S. Capital to include the cities of Alexandria, Georgetown, and Washington. Having only just recently fought the Revolutionary War to attain their freedoms from the Crown along with the rest of the citizens of the United States, the residents of these cities found themselves stripped of their own home rule and full representation in Congress! It didn't have to be that way.

The bill could have, nay, should have only carved out the lands needed to house the legislative and executive branches and various other buildings, monuments and grounds. It didn't have to include ALL of the 100 miles square (102) allowed by the Constitution. It didn't HAVE TO disenfranchise and make aliens of the entire populace of the three urban centers. After all, the Article says the District MAY BE so large, not must be so.

Alexandrians and Arlingtonians are Virginians today because of that explicit language. They were "re-freed" in 1846, and the constitutionally flexible DC Line was redrawn to include only about 69 miles square, leaving only we sorry Washingtonians and Georgetowners to remain in political bondage. It doesn't have to and should not remain so.

1787 US Constitution–Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17–The ‘District Clause’ chooses the location of what is today Washington, DC to become the new Federal Capital.

Before 1801, - District residents cast votes for members of Congress in Maryland or Virginia and for President as part of the neighboring states 1801 Organic Act of 1801 – Establishes DC as U.S. Capital

  • Congress votes to take complete control over 10 square miles – See District Clause (U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 8, paragraph 17)
  • Residents’ voting rights/rights to Congressional representation are lost

1874 – 1967 - Territorial government and non-voting Delegate abolished

  • Congress initiates Direct Rule–a three-member commissioner government is appointed by the president/ approved by Congress (all white until 1960’s)

20th Century
Segregationist Rep. John McMillan favors DC Vote for President.

  • Compromise meant to satisfy DC desire for statehood/representation (DC limited to 3 electoral votes no matter what the population)

1961 - 23rd Amendment passes Congress and state legislatures. Gives DC residents right to vote for President, but limits DC three votes in the Electoral College

1964 - DC residents vote in their first Presidential Election. (Lyndon Baines Johnson)

1964-1973 DC suffers 243 casualties in the Vietnam War–more than 10 other states

1965 - Federal Voting Rights Act is passed, strengthening the 14th and 15th amendments on voting rights. Over half a million African-Americans who live in DC, however, are still without voting representation in Congress.

1965 – As part of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. James Forman, Executive Secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, send Marion Barry to Washington, DC to campaign for home rule (Free DC Movement).

1966 – Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) support Home Rule for D.C.

1967 – First National Home Rule Day

1967 – DC has Home Rule Float in LBJ’s Presidential Inaugural Parade on Penn. Ave.

1967 – 3- Commissioner form of Government ends – LBJ appoints Walter Washington as Mayor and appoints the first Council.

1968 – DC joins widespread rioting in urban America after assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

1968 - DC residents elect a Board of Education (School Board)

1971 - Statehood committee formed; first ‘DC Statehood day’ to educate and inform the public on statehood; first DC statehood bill is introduced into Congress (Ronald Dellums–D; Fred Schwengel–R)

1971 - Congress gives DC right to elect non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives – Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy elected to this post

1972 – Segregationist Rep. McMillan (D-SC) loses his seat and therefore his chairmanship of the District Committee. DC Del. Walter Fauntroy mobilizes DC residents and others to go to South Carolina to defeat him.

1973 - Under new Chairman of District Committee, Rep. Charles Diggs of Detroit, DC Home Rule Act–The DC Self-Government Reorganization Act–grants the city an elected mayor and a 13-member council (President LBJ)

1974 - First Mayor (Walter Washington) and council are elected

1976 - House calls for a floor vote on a proposed constitutional amendment to give DC voting representation in Congress. DC Del. Fauntroy main mobilizer. The amendment wins the majority of the vote (229:181) but is still not passed.

1977 - President Carter back DC Congressional Vote but not statehood.

1978 - DC Voting Rights Constitutional Amendment approved in Congress–would give the District 2 senators and 1 Congressman if authorized–requires ratification from a majority of the states (2/3rds of congress – 3/4ths of state legislatures)

1980 – DC residents vote for initiative to draft state constitution.

1981 - DC Statehood Commission and DC Compact Commission established to study path to DC statehood and plan to mobilize community and nation.

1982 DC Statehood Constitutional Convention drafts a state constitution; Statehood constitution formally approved by DC Residents

  • State constitution ratified–“New Columbia”
  • Shadow delegation created (1 Statehood Representative and 2 Statehood Senators to lobby for statehood)
  • Authorization from Congress never granted

1985 – Sen. Edward Kennedy introduces statehood bill. Senate takes no action.

1987 – Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) introduces statehood Bill – Senate takes no action

1987 - The House DC Committee votes to approve the DC Home Rule Charter submitted by non-voting Del. Fauntroy (D-DC) which grants DC Statehood and full voting rights; however, the bill later dies in Congress

1985 - DC Full Voting Rights Amendment fails after 13 slate legislatures reject it

1990 - DC residents elect DC Statehood Delegation (two Senators and one Representative whose responsibility is to lobby for DC statehood).

1990 – President George Walker Bush announces he opposes Statehood.

1990 - Senators Edward Kennedy and Paul Simon introduced a bill for statehood for DC.

1991 - Statehood Senator Jesse Jackson begins term as first Senior Shadow Senator for DC with Florence Pendleton as his Junior Senator and Charles Moreland, first Representative.

  • Non-voting Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) begins first term as DC Representative in the House

1992 - House DC Committee again votes on statehood

  • Bill never reaches House

1993 - DC Statehood Bill H.R. 51, introduced by Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, defeated 277:153 in the House

1995 - Congress rules to terminate DC delegate from House of Representatives, removing any present voter privileges

1995 – Congress imposes non-elected DC Control Board over DC government

1997 – Stand Up! for Democracy in DC Coalition ( is formed after the takeover of the D.C. government by Congress to educate and advocate for full democracy for D.C. residents.

1998 – DC Residents filed two lawsuits (Adams v. Daley - for self-determination filed by George LaRoche, Esq. and Alexander v. Daley - for voting rights, filed by Jamin Raskin, Esq. • Congress passes bill that prevents the city from spending money on the litigating the suits.

1998 – DC Vote is formed as a voting rights education and advocacy organization.

2000 – Two members of Stand Up! For Democracy in DC (Karen Szulgit and Anise Jenkins) are arrested for protesting the introduction of a bill by Rep. Bob Barr which caused the counting of the votes for Initiative 59 (the Medical Marijuana Initiative which won over 69% of the vote in all 8 wards.) They were eventually acquitted by a DC jury.

2000 - The two lawsuits are joined. A 3-judge panel rules against the lawsuits by a 2:1 vote stating that the Constitution excludes DC in voting rights–Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal by Adams v. Clinton plaintiffs. 1. - DC adopts “Taxation Without Representation” motto for license plates

2003 - U.S. Representative Tom Davis (R-VA) and non-voting Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) introduces DC One Vote Bill to grant DC voting representative in House (and extra for Utah)–No Taxation Without Representation Act of 2003 (S.617) (H.R. 1285)–nine cosponsors

  • Never reaches vote

2005 - January 2005 nationwide poll found that 82 percent of Americans support full voting representation for the District, while 71 percent support full budgetary autonomy for the city. But more importantly, roughly 80 percent of Americans expressed some level of ignorance towards the District's second-class status, and were more likely to support voting rights when made aware of it.

2006 - Davis/Norton’ single vote bill is reintroduced - Again fails to reach vote

2006 – United Nation’s Human Rights Committee finds DC’s lack of voting representation in Congress to violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights–a treaty ratified by more than 160 countries, including the US.

2007 Washington Post poll suggests 61 percent (788) DC Adults want statehood.

  • Davis/Norton single vote Bill is again reintroduced into a now Democratic Congress
  • House passes the bill
  • Stalled in Congress

2008 - Congress removes restriction on DC right to spend its money on lobbying for statehood

2008 – Presidential Candidate Barack Obama (D-IL) gives his support for statehood.

  1. DC Council establishes Special Committee on DC Statehood and Self-Determination

2009 - 51st State Commission Legislation is introduced into DC Council

2009 - Senate prepares to vote on a similar single vote bill proposed by Representatives Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) – handgun amendment is attached to bill. No action

2010 – The DC One Vote bill was withdrawn when Senator John Ensign (R-NV) introduced an amendment to the DC House Voting Rights Act (S.160) to repeal many of DC's gun control laws and strip the DC Council of the power to legislate gun control laws.

2010 Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduce a standalone bill to make it easier to buy guns and ammunition in the District and to repeal local registration and firearm storage requirements.

2011 Mayor Vincent Gray endorses D.C. statehood in his inaugural address.

2011 House of Representatives, now controlled by the Republican Party, strips D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton of her vote in the Committee of the Whole.

2011 D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton introduces 3 bills, the first of which is H.R. 265, the New Columbia Admission Act. Over the course of the year, 15 cosponsors are added. This is the first DC Statehood bill introduced into Congress since 1995.

2011 D.C. Council unanimously approves the "Sense of the Council on Calling on Congress to Admit the District of Columbia as the 51st State of Union Resolution of 2011."

2011 41 D.C. residents (dubbed the "D.C. 41 for 51"), including Mayor Vincent Gray and six members of the D.C. Council, are arrested for sitting down in the street outside the Hart Senate Office Building in an act of civil disobedience to protest Congressional riders on the District budget bill. Arrestees include Anise Jenkins, executive director, Stand Up! for Democracy in DC (Free DC). She along with 7 others arrestees, forming the DC Democracy 8) and was the only defendant acquitted in this trial.

2011 Soon after, 14 more D.C. residents, including D.C. Senator Michael D. Brown and Council Member Mary Cheh, are arrested in similar demonstrations. The May 4 demonstration follows a House of Representatives vote to permanently ban the use of D.C. tax money to pay for abortions of low-income women. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Keith Silver (SMD 6C06) demanded a trial and was acquitted in November 2011.

2011 Twelve more D.C. residents, including Trayon White, the Ward 8 representative on the D.C. State Board of Education, Dr. Dennis Wiley and his wife Christina of the Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, and former youth mayor Markus Batchelor, are arrested for sitting down in front of the White House to protest D.C.'s lack of rights and demanding that "President Obama, stand up for D.C." This brings to 72 the number of people arrested.

2011 Congress passes the fiscal year 2012 omnibus spending bill, including the D.C. budget, and removes all riders except, for the second year in a row, a rider prohibiting the District government from using its local taxes monies to pay for abortion services for poor District women.

2012 Prince George's County Council (Maryland) consisting of many former DC resident, on its own initiative approves a resolution supporting admitting the District of Columbia as the 51st state.

2012 Sx George Washington University students who are members of the DC Statehood Student Association are arrested by the Capitol Police for a nonviolent sit-down for D.C. statehood.

2012 Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, refuses to let D.C.'s Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton speak on a bill that would ban abortions in D.C. once a fetus is 20 weeks past fertilization, even though the bill would only affect her constituents. Stand Up _ Free DC Executive Director was thrown out of the hearing for refusing to remove her “Free DC” baseball cap.

2012 General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA approves resolution Co33 endorsing Statehood for the District of Columbia.

2012 The D.C. Council unanimously votes to hold a referendum to amend the District of Columbia's charter to authorize budget autonomy (i.e. remove Congress from having to approve how District tax funds are spent).

2013 D.C.'s non-voting Delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, introduces the New Columbia Admission Act (HR 292) in the 113th Congress.

2013 Senator Thomas Carper, Chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that has jurisdiction over the District of Columbia, introduces S. 132, the New Columbia Admissions Act, a companion bill to H.R. 292. S. 132 is co-sponsored by three senior Democratic senators, Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

2013 D.C. voters approve the charter amendment to authorize budget autonomy (46,608 votes in favor versus 7,396 against and 3,033 not voting).

2013 Rep. Jose E. Serrano (D-NY) becomes the 51st cosponsor of H.R. 292, the New Columbia Admission Act.

2013 In their remarks at the June 19, 2013 dedication of the District of Columbia's gift of a statue of Frederick Douglass to the U.S. Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speak out for the rights of the people of the District of Columbia.

1. Information compiled and researched for Stand Up! for Democracy in DC ( by Anise Jenkins; sources include “City of Magnificent Intentions”, DC Government Resource Center, former DC Delegate Rev. Walter Fauntroy, WAMU-FM radio website, Mark S. Greek, Photo Archivist, Washingtoniana, and “DC Statehood Yes We Can Timeline”.

More educational information about DC Statehood can be found on

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