The DC Council voted on Tuesday, October 18th, to approve the proposed constitution for the new state with several important amendments. This vote came at the end of an intense set of hearings about problems with the constitution that included testimony from LWVDC's President, Linda Beebe.
In a decided win for advocates, including LWVDC, the Council amended the constitution to mandate a constitutional convention within two years after statehood becomes official, with delegates elected from all 8 Wards. Furthermore, once the convention reports out its results, those decisions will be presented directly to the voters for their approval.
These changes provide a future opportunity for elected delegates to "have the authority to draft a government for and by the citizens of the District for the first time in over 200 years," as Josh Burch, founder of Neighbors United for DC Statehood and a League member, put so eloquently.
The Council, in a surprise move, also changed the proposed name of the 51st state from the original, State of New Columbia, to Washington, DC (standing for Douglass Commonwealth, in honor of Frederick Douglass, abolitionist and long-time resident of DC).
The changes in the constitution were discussed in some detail at the LWVDC's Fall Luncheon that took place on Saturday, October 15th at the Ottoman Taverna. The focus of the discussion was the upcoming advisory referendum on statehood that will appear on the November 8th ballot. Speakers at the luncheon were unanimous in recommending a "yes" vote on the referendum, in spite of their concerns regarding the constitution. The referendum contains 4 parts:
- shall we petition for statehood?
- approval of constitution
- approval of proposed boundaries for new state
- commitment to a republican/representative form of government.
Voters will be asked to vote yes or no on the whole referendum. The amendments approved should make voting for statehood less problematic.
Submitted by Anne Anderson, Chair Committee on Full Rights for DC Citizens 2016