In a historic vote, the D.C. Council passed a bill that would submit a referendum to the District voters on the prospect of the city becoming the 51st state in the union.

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On July 12, the council unanimously approved the “Advisory Referendum on the State of New Columbia Admission Act Resolution of 2016” that would allow the D.C. Board of Elections to create an advisory referendum that would ask voters to petition the U.S. Congress to make Washington, D.C. to become a state called New Columbia. On the November 8 ballot, voters will be asked one question with four parts consisting of the desire to become the 51st state, ratifying a constitution, approving of the boundaries and committing to a representative form of government.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) supported the council’s action, according to the website.


“This is a historic day for statehood for Washington, D.C.,” Bowser said. “I have faith that District residents will overwhelmingly support this referendum paving the way for our petition to the Congress for D.C. statehood and finally remedying one of the biggest civil rights injustices of our time.”

Bowser, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and the District’s statehood delegation of Sens. Michael Brown (D) and Paul Strauss (D) along with Statehood Rep. Franklin Garcia (D) were part of the New Columbia Statehood Commission that held hearings throughout the District this year on the subject of statehood. The commission has approved a new statehood constitution, re-writing the previous 1982 document and is going through the congressional route instead of focusing on the U.S. constitutional amendment process to become a state.

The commission’s plan is to present a constitution and statehood legislation to the new session of Congress and the new president in 2017. D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) said the bill represented a historic moment.

“This is a key moment for D.C. statehood and I hope it will be a victory,” Nadeau said in a statement to the AFRO. “So many who came before us have been working hard for this day to come. I look forward to continuing the dialogue about our constitution in council hearings later this year so that we can get it right.

“And I’ll turn my efforts toward getting out the vote in November, elevating our voice as District residents and taking our rightful place as the 51st star on the American flag.”

D.C. Council member Vincent Orange (D-At Large) told the AFRO that he too will work to see that the voters support the referendum. D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) also supported the bill and sees the statehood effort in a larger context.

“Approving the bill was the right thing for the city and it opens up a broader conversation on statehood in the D.C.,” Grosso told the AFRO.