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On November 3, 1964, residents of the District of Columbia cast their ballots in a presidential election for the first time. The passage of the 23rd Amendment in 1961 gave citizens of the nation’s capital the right to vote for a commander in chief and vice president. They went on to help Democrat Lyndon Johnson defeat Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964, the next presidential election.
Between 1776 and 1800, New York and then Philadelphia served as the temporary center of government for the newly formed United States. The capital’s location was a source of much controversy and debate, especially for Southern politicians, who didn’t want it located too far north. In 1790, Congress passed a law allowing President George Washington to choose the permanent site. As a compromise, he selected a tract of undeveloped swampland on the Potomac River, between Maryland and Virginia, and began to refer to it as Federal City. The commissioners overseeing the development of the new city picked its permanent name—Washington—to honor the president. Congress met for the first time in Washington, D.C., on November 17, 1800.
READ MORE: Why Isn't Washington, D.C. a State?
The District was put under the jurisdiction of Congress, which terminated D.C. residents’ voting rights in 1801. In 1961, the 23rd Amendment restored these rights, allowing D.C. voters to choose electors for the Electoral College based on population, with a maximum of as many electors as the least populated state. With a current population of over 550,000 residents, 61-square-mile D.C. has three electoral votes, just like Wyoming, America’s smallest state, population-wise. The majority of D.C.’s residents are African Americans and they have voted overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates in past presidential elections.
In 1970, Congress gave Washington, D.C., one non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives and with the passage of 1973’s Home Rule Act, Washingtonians got their first elected mayor and city council. In 1978, a proposed amendment would have given D.C. the right to select electors, representatives and senators, just like a state, but it failed to pass, as have subsequent calls for D.C. statehood.
United States presidential elections in Washington, D.C.
Following is a table of United States presidential elections in Washington, D.C., ordered by year. Since the adoption of the Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1961, Washington, D.C. has had three electoral votes in the election of the President and Vice President of the United States, and has participated in every U.S. presidential election since that time. Washington, D.C., has voted for the candidate of the Democratic party in every presidential election. Unlike any state, the district has gone to the overall losing candidate in the majority of elections in which it has participated.
|No. of elections||15|
|Voted for winning candidate||7|
|Voted for losing candidate||8|
Winners of the district are in bold. The shading refers to the state winner, and not the national winner.
Washington, D.C.David R. Frazier Photolibrary, Inc. / Alamy
A Washington D.C. license plate
You may be a U.S. citizen, pay federal taxes, even serve in the military. But if you live in the nation's capital, as far as Congress is concerned, you might as well not exist.
The District of Columbia has never had its own Senator or Representative, despite a population (nearly 600,000) larger than Wyoming's. That curious disenfranchisement may soon change, however, as a bill advances through Congress that would finally give D.C. a House member. On Feb. 24, the Senate voted to allow debate on the plan, which would expand the House to 437 members, its first enlargement in nearly 100 years. The bill would also grant Utah another vote until the next reapportionment in 2012, maintaining the body's partisan balance as D.C.'s addition would almost certainly be a Democrat and Utah's a Republican. (See pictures from 2008's historic Election Day.)
Always an odd federal orphan, the District of Columbia has struggled to wean itself from congressional control since it was first cobbled together in 1790. Residents could vote for House members in neighboring Virginia and Maryland until 1801, but city leaders were originally appointed by the President. The city enjoyed some self-rule for much of the 19th century, but most of it was stripped away in 1874. Voters couldn't participate in presidential elections at all until the 23rd Amendment was ratified in 1963. After persistent lobbying by residents their neighbors, after all lawmakers passed the Home Rule Act of 1973, allowing voters to directly elect the mayor and city council. But Congress still acts as the District's slightly distant parent, wielding final budget control and reviewing all local laws. It nixed efforts to impose a "commuter tax" on Maryland and Virginia residents, for example, and banned buildings higher than the Capitol dome.
In 1971 Congress allowed D.C. to send a nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives (a position currently filled by the fiery advocate Eleanor Holmes Norton), and continued pressure led to a 1978 constitutional amendment that would have given the District a full vote in Congress. But the amendment fizzled, winning support in fewer than half the states needed. In 1980 District voters even approved their own constitution for a 51st state to be called New Columbia. That plan went nowhere. (See pictures of voting machines.)
Amid mounting frustration, the District in 2000 revived a Revolutionary rallying cry, emblazoning the phrase "taxation without representation" on license plates at the suggestion of a fed-up D.C. radio talk-show listener. (They're now the default license option, though neutral plates are issued on request.) Bill Clinton swiftly added the plates to his presidential limousine, though one of George W. Bush's first official acts was to remove them. The protest plates have not returned to President Barack Obama's ride, and some locals are growing impatient. "[It's] just something that the President hasn't gotten to yet," a White House spokesman recently insisted.
The main argument against granting D.C. a congressional vote is a simple one: it's not a state. Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution says Representatives are to be chosen "by the people of the several states." "The Constitution of the United States could not be clearer," Arizona Senator Jon Kyl recently said on the Senate floor. And while his opposition may have as much to do with politics as law Republicans are skittish about a slippery slope that would lead to U.S. Senators from D.C., a Democratic stronghold the definition of a state is surprisingly hard to pin down. While the U.S. flag has only 50 stars, D.C. is considered a state in other legal references, such as the Constitution's provision that lets Congress regulate interstate commerce. (See 50 authentic American travel experiences.)
Backers of the current effort have been heartened by the apparent swell of interest in the idea, especially since a similar measure stalled in the Senate two years ago. And crucially, Obama supports the idea, unlike his predecessor. Yet the bill faces an uphill climb, even if it gets to the President's desk. Long legal challenges are a certainty, and many observers including the respected Congressional Research Service think the Supreme Court may consider the law an overreach. "Under that power, they could create 20 seats for military areas. Or they could give 10 seats to Puerto Rico," George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told Politico. And the President does have other things on his plate. Despite his support, Obama recently indicated he may not go to bat for the idea, telling the Washington Post his legislative agenda is already "chock-full."
The posts suggest that Detroit, with 672,662 residents and 850,441 votes, had a 126% voter turnout rate. The city of Detroit is located in Wayne County, where Biden won 68.4% of the vote (here).
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s July 2019 estimate, the population of Detroit is 670,031 (here). It is possible that the post’s estimate comes from Data Commons, an online open data repository, which says here that Detroit’s 2018 population was 672,662.
As for Detroit’s vote count, the 850,441 is wrong. Official election results provided here by the Detroit Department of Elections state that 257,619 out of 506,305 registered voters cast ballots, making voter turnout 50.9%.
Accordingly, 38% of Detroit’s population voted in the 2020 general election.
Voter Turnout in Presidential Elections
“Turnout” refers to efforts to measure the extent of popular participation in elections. Turnout is usually discussed as a ratio although always based on a count of votes cast. The numerator is the number of votes cast. Various measures may be used as the denominator: (1) The Voting Age Population—broadly speaking it is the population above the legal voting age (2) Voting Eligible Population—all citizens who are not excluded from voting because of some legal impediment (3) Registered voters. Reported measures of each of these has varied somewhat over time as estimates have been revised and refined.
Three propositions underlie most research on turnout.
- First: turnout may be a way of assessing the health of a popular democracy. Well-functioning democracies are more inclusive and will have higher turnout.
- Second: Ease of registration should affect turnout. In comparing two jurisdictions over time with comparable demographic caracteristics (education, age, income, etc.), turnout should be higher in the one with less restrictive registration requirements.
- Third: Electoral competition should drive up turnout. Other things equal, when the stakes in the election seem greater, turnout should increase.
Voting Age Population is typically calculated based on census data (“resident population [21 or 18] years and older”). But before 1920 the numbers used are always adjusted for the shifting definition of citizens with voting rights. So women are excluded prior to 1920. The classic attempt to define the voting age population for the 19 th century is by Walter Dean Burnham, “The Turnout Problem” in Elections American Style ed., Reichley (Brookings: Washington D.C., 1987) Burnham published only the turnout ratio, not his actual estimate of the voting age population!
Voting Eligible Population is an attempt to make an even more precise definition of the population of people who have a legal right to vote—potential voters. Making the estimates of noncitizens and disfranchized felons has been carried out mostly by Professor Michael McDonald and data are published in the U.S. Elections Project website.
Registered voters counts the total number of eligible people who have taken the additional step of actually registering to vote. We report here the estimates produced by the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. This revised table no longer reports registration totals before 1968, consistent with recent CPS publications. Registration was not a universal requirement until “well into the twentieth century” (Ansolabhere and Konisky) and some states did not impose uniform registration requirements until the 1970s. As of 2016, North Dakota had no registration requirement. So it is possible for the number of votes to exceed the number of registered voters. Scholars point out that census data may not be entirely accurate (see Bennett 1990). A data source that may be of interest to many is the U.S. Election Assistance Commission which surveys county-level officials about voting and elections. Among their data is a series reporting the total number of persons "registered and eligible to vote." For 2016, the sum of the individual county numbers, for counties with data in the US is 185,714,229--a number 15% greater than the CPS estimate for the same year and election.
We thank users who have taken the time to suggest specific modifications to our data on turnout: Thomas Meagher and Phil Kiesling.
Number of votes cast in presidential elections is published by the U.S. House of Representatives, Office of the Clerk, Statistics of the Presidential and Congressional Election for various years starting with 1920.
Ansolabehere, Stephen and David M. Konisky, “The Introduction of Voter Registration and Its Effect on Turnout,” Political Analysis Winter 2006, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp. 83-100.
Bennett, Stephen Earl, “The Uses and Abuses of Registration and Turnout Data,” PS: Political Science and Politics Vol 23, No. 2 (Jun., 1990): 166-171.
Burnham, Walter Dean, “The Turnout Problem,” Elections American Style ed. A. james Reichley (Brookings: Washington DC 1987)
McDonald, Michael P., and Samuel L. Popkin, “The Myth of the Vanishing Voter,” American Political Science Review 95 (2001): 963-974.
Proquest Historical Statistics of the United States 2020, Table 441
The politics of D.C. statehood
Republican opposition to D.C. statehood rests in large part on politics. Given the overwhelming Democratic voting in Washington, it would be unlikely that Republicans would elect a House member or senator from D.C. As a metric, since 2000, the Democratic presidential nominee captured, on average, over 89% of the vote.
President Trump has vowed to veto DC statehood legislation however, it has no chance of passing the Senate as Majority Leader McConnell has criticized the legislation. In addition, in vilifying the effort, President Trump has rightly noted that Democrats would likely pick up two additional Senate seats. However, he wrongly noted that Democrats would add five additional House members.
DC’s first lesbian presidential elector: Casting vote for Biden-Harris a “bittersweet” honor
The District of Columbia’s first lesbian presidential elector says she’s “thrilled” to get to vote for the first woman vice president.
Longtime D.C. resident Barbara Helmick, one of three presidential electors selected by the DC Democratic Party to cast a vote in the Electoral College, says, “As a feminist, I’m proud and thrilled to have [the] opportunity” to vote for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
In addition, as the District’s first openly lesbian presidential elector, Helmick is “proud to have broken that glass ceiling,” noting that only one other LGBTQ individual — Jeff Coudriet, a now-deceased former staffer for longtime Councilmember Jack Evans — has ever been selected for the honor.
“Every opportunity to have our community visibly recognized in any way is always an accomplishment,” she says. “So that’s one thing our community can be proud of, that one of our three electors this year is an out gay person.”
Helmick, 70, an out lesbian progressive activist who resides in the city’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, has been involved for decades with several local political organizations, including the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s top LGBTQ political organization the League of Women Voters DC for Democracy, and, in the 1990s, the Democratic Party State Committee.
She currently works as the director of programs for DC Vote, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to achieving statehood and full voting representation for District of Columbia residents.
“Each state and D.C. has their own process for selecting electors, and traditionally, the district would select either members of the district council or school board,” notes Helmick. “ But this year, the Democratic Party came up with the idea of selecting ‘real’ people who reflect the values and issues that are important to us as a District. And they knew they wanted to have at least one person representing our campaign to achieve full equality through statehood, and picked me.”
Helmick says it’s an honor to be selected as a presidential elector, saying it shows people have a significant amount of trust in her.
“This is a critical step in one of the most important elections we have for president and vice president, and the individual casting the electoral votes must be trusted and respected,” she says.
“ It’s also bittersweet, because we don’t have full voting rights,” Helmick adds. “We don’t have full representation. We don’t have self-rule. So I am pleased to be able to use whatever platform I have as an elector to remind people that we remain not full citizens, not full participants in this American dream of democracy. So we must continue our campaign to become the 51st State.”
Helmick says that, as an LGBTQ person, the District’s lack of full voting rights and right to self-governance has impacted the community greatly over the years. For example, in the 1990s, Congress blocked an attempt by the D.C. Council to pass a robust civil unions law that would have guaranteed insurance coverage for dependents, as well as extended other legal benefits to same-sex couples and their families.
“S tatehood is a critical issue for all of us who are in any kind of ‘marginalized’ community, where someone who doesn’t like us in Congress can make our lives harder,” she says. “So I think it’s important to remind people that statehood is an important issue to the LGBTQ community, too.”
While Helmick has promised to be a faithful elector, she’s generally skeptical of the idea of the Electoral College, and would prefer electing a president by popular vote.
“I will honor my pledge to be a faithful elector. I do not believe in changing the rules in the middle of the game,” she says. “Having said that, I am a huge supporter of moving to the popular vote for election. Certainly, the roots of the Electoral College are not great, and I do not think it’s a good reflection of the true values of our American system. At the same time, I’m happy to participate in it as long as we have it.”
She says she’s particularly skeptical of attempts by some supporters of Trump to overturn the election results by encouraging states to select different electors who will not carry out the will of the voters of their respective states.
“There’s a very narrow path for them to really mess this up. But that’s what they would be doing,” she says. “It would be a terrible thing for democracy. It’s just part of the long list of destructive actions that this administration has rained on us the last four years.”
On Dec. 14, Helmick will officially cast her vote for president and vice president, along with two other D.C. women, both of whom are frontline workers: Jacqueline Echavarria, a grocery store cashier at Safeway and former police officer who’s active with the food and commercial workers union, and Meedie Bardonille, a registered nurse and chair of the D.C. Board of Nursing.
“My understanding is that the mayor and the party have determined the actual vote will take place at the Convention Center so there’s lots of room for social distancing, and there will be a very limited number of people who can attend in person. I understand they’re looking at how they can livestream the vote to make it more accessible to so many more people,” says Helmick, adding that Mayor Muriel Bowser will “likely make a few remarks.”
Voting by Mail Dates Back to America’s Earliest Years. Here’s How It’s Changed Over the Years
L iving through the COVID-19 pandemic has been compared to living through wartime. Now, the list of parallels is growing: according to a New York Times analysis, when Americans vote this November election offices could receive more than double the number of mailed ballots they received in 2016.
In the U.S., showing up in person to cast one’s ballot on Election Day has always been the standard way of exercising that fundamental right. But over the centuries, voting by mail has become an attractive alternative for many&mdashthanks in large part to the influence of wartime necessity.
Even the scattered examples of absentee voting (the terms are often used interchangeably) that can be traced to the colonial era tend to fit the pattern: In 17th-century Massachusetts, men could vote from home if their homes were “vulnerable to Indian attack,” according to historian Alex Keyssar’s book The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States, and the votes of some Continental Army soldiers were presented in writing “as if the men were present themselves” in Hollis, N.H., in 1775 during the American Revolution.
But it was during the Civil War that America first experimented with absentee voting on a large scale, as so many of the men who were eligible to vote were away from home fighting. During the 1864 presidential election&mdashin which Republican incumbent President Abraham Lincoln defeated Democratic candidate George McClellan&mdashUnion soldiers voted in camps and field hospitals, under the supervision of clerks or state officials.
&ldquoExcuse-required absentee voting started during the Civil War&mdasha product of the competition between Abraham Lincoln and George McClellan,&rdquo Paul Gronke, a professor of political science at Reed College and founder of the non-partisan Early Voting Information Center, told TIME in 2016. &ldquoLincoln wanted to assure that he got the votes of the soldiers who were serving away from home.&rdquo
After the Civil War ended, the same logic held. In later conflicts, states increasingly made it possible for soldiers away from home to vote. During World War I, nearly all states let soldiers vote from afar “at least during war time,” according to Keyssar’s book. And it was in that same time period that people with a non-military, work-related reason for being away from home on Election Day started to be able to vote absentee, too. At the 1917-1918 Massachusetts Constitutional Convention, one delegate advocated for accommodating those “in industry”, arguing that railroad employees and traveling salesmen who are away from home on Election Day are “toiling and sacrificing…for the common good,” just as soldiers do.
Industrialization and the expansion of transportation options allowed people to travel far and wide in the growing national economy, making that argument all the more powerful. Some laws required witnesses and a notary public’s signature, but officials were looking for a way to make sure that people on the road could still have their electoral voices heard.
“In the early 20th century, we’re becoming a much more mobile country,” says John C. Fortier, author of Absentee and Early Voting and director of governmental studies at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “States will make exceptions for certain types of people, such as railroad workers, or people who are sick. There is a movement&mdashnot nationally, we do everything differently state by state&mdashbut of states adopting some form of voting for selected populations who met certain criteria.”
In the decades that followed, people who voted by mail generally had to have a specific reason for not being able to vote in person on Election Day. That began to change in 1978, when California became the first state to allow voters to apply for an absentee ballot without having to provide an excuse, according to Gronke.
Oregon also claims several firsts in the history of voting by mail. The first entirely mail-in federal primary election took place in the state in 1995, and the first mail-only general election took place in the state in 1996, when Ron Wyden was elected to the U.S. Senate to replace Bob Packwood, who resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal. Since 2000, after 70% of voters approved a ballot initiative instituting the program, Oregon has been an all vote-by-mail state.
As TIME reported in its recent roundup of state laws for voting by mail in 2020, five states were already holding entirely mail-in elections before the pandemic&mdashColorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah. Twenty-nine states and Washington D.C. allowed &ldquono excuse&rdquo mail-in absentee voting, and 16 states allowed voters to cast a ballot by mail if they had an excuse. In the 2016 presidential election, about 1 in 4 voters cast their votes via ballots mailed to them. Despite claims of vote fraud when voting is conducted outside of polling places, only 0.00006% of the 250 million votes by mailed ballots nationwide were fraudulent, according to MIT political scientists who analyzed numbers from the Heritage Foundation’s Election Fraud Database.
In addition, scholars at Stanford University’s Democracy and Polarization Lab analyzing 1996-2018 data in three of these universal vote-by-mail states (California, Utah and Washington) didn’t find vote-by-mail advantaged one political party over another&mdashcontrary to President Trump’s claim that Republicans would never win an election again if vote-by-mail programs expanded&mdashand only found a “modest increase in overall average turnout rates.”
Vote-by-mail programs, as Fortier puts it, are “generally not pulling more people into the voting place, except for making it more convenient for those who vote anyway.”
During a period of time full of uncertainties, election officials say American voters can count on vote-by-mail programs being “safe and secure.” What’s also certain is that the 2020 Election is another milestone in the centuries-long history of voting by mail.
What is the Electoral College?
The Electoral College is the process through which the president of the United States is elected to office, as outlined in Article II of the United States Constitution. In this system, each state receives a number of votes equal to the total number of their delegation to the United States Congress. The vote casters, known as electors, are chosen by rules differing in each state, but many are elected during each party's state conventions. Electors have traditionally cast their votes for president in December, following the general election in November.
The Electoral College system emerged as a compromise between the framers of the Constitution, who debated whether to elect the president by popular vote, Congress, or state legislatures. The framers viewed the Electoral College as "an actual decisionmaking body that would reduce the uncertain impact of popular participation and increase the likelihood that only well-qualified would be elected to the presidency," according to Benjamin Ginsberg, a professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University. Ώ]
Presidential voting history
District of Columbia presidential election results (1900-2020)
15 Democratic wins
The House voted to grant statehood to Washington, D.C., the first time a chamber of Congress has approved establishing the nation’s capital as the 51st state. The bill is unlikely to pass the Republican-led Senate.
It is long past time to apply the nation’s oldest slogan, “no taxation without representation,” and the principle of consent of the governed to District of Columbia residents. H.R. 51 would do so, and Congress has both the moral obligation and the constitutional authority to pass the bill. Eighty-six percent of D.C. residents voted in favor of statehood in 2016. In fact, D.C. residents have been fighting for voting rights in Congress and local autonomy for 219 years. If offered, I will vote to return residential portions of D.C. to Maryland, thus giving D.C. citizens the power to vote on Maryland’s two U.S. senators. That option is consistent with historical precedents. But I will never vote to give a single, middling-sized city the same political power as one of America’s great 50 states. There being 232 votes in the affirmative, 180 votes in the negative, the District of Columbia statehood bill, H.R. 51, is passed without objection. Motion to reconsider is laid upon the table. [scattered applause]
WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives voted nearly along party lines on Friday to grant statehood to Washington, D.C., the first time a chamber of Congress has approved establishing the nation’s capital as a state.
The legislation, which is unlikely to advance in the Republican-led Senate, would establish a 51st state — Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, named in honor of Frederick Douglass — and allow it two senators and a voting representative in the House. The National Mall, the White House, Capitol Hill and some other federal property would remain under congressional jurisdiction, with the rest of the land becoming the new state.
The vote was 232 to 180, with every Republican and one Democrat voting “no.”
Republicans have long opposed the move to give congressional representation to the District of Columbia, where more than three-quarters of voters are registered Democrats, but the long-suffering movement for statehood, led by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, the capital’s lone nonvoting delegate, has been pressing for a vote on the matter for years.
When Democrats assumed the House majority last year, Ms. Norton secured a promise from leaders to bring up the bill for the first time in more than a quarter-century.
Anger over the Trump administration’s handling of racial justice protests — particularly the use of federal officers in the city and the violent removal of protesters from Lafayette Square outside the White House — further galvanized advocates of statehood and cast a national spotlight on how much control the federal government retains over more than 700,000 residents in the District of Columbia.
“Over the last few months, the nation, and even the world, has witnessed the discriminatory and outrageous treatment of D.C. residents by the federal government,” Ms. Norton said on Friday on the House floor, where she was unable to cast a vote for the bill she championed. “The federal occupation of D.C. occurred solely because the president thought he could get away with it here. He was wrong.”
The bill, which passed along party lines, is not expected to become law. The White House issued a veto threat against it on Wednesday, declaring the measure unconstitutional.
Republicans in the Senate, where the legislation would have to meet a bipartisan 60-vote threshold to advance, have rejected the idea, arguing that if representation for its citizens was the sole issue, the District of Columbia should simply be absorbed into Maryland, another heavily Democratic state.
“Retrocession wouldn’t give the Democrats their real aim: two Democratic senators in perpetuity to rubber-stamp the swamp’s agenda, so you won’t hear them talk about it,” Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, said on Thursday in a lengthy diatribe on the floor.
He declared that Wyoming, a state with a smaller population, was a “well-rounded, working-class state” superior to Washington, which would amount to “an appendage of the federal government” full of lobbyists and civil servants. Wyoming is more than 80 percent white, while the majority of the District of Columbia is composed of people of color.
The arguments against statehood on the House floor barely shifted since the full chamber last debated the merits of granting statehood to Washington more than a quarter of a century ago. Opponents questioned the constitutional merits, arguing that the founding fathers intentionally did not establish the nation’s capital as a state. Others questioned whether the District of Columbia was geographically and economically viable to be a state.
“Our nation’s founders made it clear that D.C. is not meant to be a state,” said Representative Jody B. Hice, Republican of Georgia. “They thought about it, they debated it, and they rejected it.”
Representative Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota was the sole Democrat to join Republicans in opposing the measure on Friday.
Top Democrats, several wearing masks with a symbol of the statehood movement, took to the floor to argue passionately for its passage, denouncing the disenfranchisement of Washington residents. Applause broke out on the floor as soon as the bill reached the necessary 218 threshold to pass.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, at her weekly news conference in the Capitol, dismissed as shortsighted the Republican arguments that the new state would simply give Democrats a political advantage. Alaska and Hawaii, she pointed out, had entered the union as overwhelmingly Democratic and Republican states and then flipped politically.
“What the state is, that can change over time,” Ms. Pelosi said. “But the fact is, people in the District of Columbia pay taxes, fight wars, risk their lives for our democracy — and yet in this place, they have no vote in the House and Senate.”
The District of Columbia, where license plates read “Taxation without representation,” has long been burdened by a lack of federal representation.
The capital first earned three electoral votes and the right to vote for president in 1961 with the passage of the 23rd Amendment. The right to elect a nonvoting delegate came a decade later, but lawmakers could not agree on whether to give that delegate the right to vote, and the statehood legislation never survived a floor vote.
The disparity has gained renewed national attention during the coronavirus pandemic and the protests over racial injustice. In the $2.2 trillion stimulus law enacted in March, the District of Columbia received a small fraction of the funds doled out to states to help dull the economic effect of the virus because it was treated as a territory, despite customarily being granted funding as if it were a state.
And when the administration flooded the streets of Washington with National Guard forces from elsewhere and troops in riot gear during protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody, Ms. Bowser had few options this month because of how much control Congress maintains over the District of Columbia’s finances and laws.
“Denying D.C. statehood to over 700,000 residents, the majority of them black and brown, is systemic racism,” said Stasha Rhodes, campaign director of the pro-statehood group 51 for 51. “D.C. statehood is one of the most urgent civil rights and racial justice issues of our time — and we know we are on the right side of history.”
Ms. Bowser, a fifth-generation Washingtonian, told reporters at a news conference on Thursday that she was “born here without a vote, but I swear I will not die here without a vote.”
The House vote, she said, would lay the groundwork for another administration to make statehood law. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has said he would support the move.