The Loudoun Board of Supervisors has passed a resolution calling for Washington, DC, to become the country’s 51st state along a party line vote.
The board’s six Democrats voted in favor, with Republican Supervisors Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) and Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) abstaining and Caleb A. Kershner (R-Catoctin) absent. Disagreement centered not on the merits of DC statehood, but whether Loudoun County should be officially opining on the topic. Letourneau said he would abstain “consistent with my longstanding practice of only voting on resolutions that are within the jurisdiction of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and government.”
“My test, as it always has been, is: Is this a subject that we have jurisdiction over? And we do not in this,” Letourneau said. “This is a federal issue. Further, the federal representatives that we could potentially influence have already weighed in on it and have well-stated positions, so the involvement of our board is not something that will be germane for their discussion.”
Buffington agreed with that argument. But the majority on the board pushed ahead with the resolution that their May 18 meeting.
“This is very regrettable situation in our nation where we are treating more than 700,000 people as basically a colony without rights to representation in Congress,” said Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian).
And they argued that it is an issue that impacts Loudoun, which is tied to the DC region through Dulles Airport and Metro’s Silver Line, and an issue which could also affect funding for the region.
“We ask for them to support us in a lot of initiatives and items, so I think we need to do the same here and support them,” said Vice Chairman Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling). “It is the right thing to give them fair representation.”
“There are times when it’s important for the Loudoun County board to go out of our jurisdictional lines and support what is right,” said County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), responding to Letourneau—who had pointed out voting on issues outside of Loudoun has become more common with the current board.
The county board’s vote follows one by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Board of Directors, of which Randall and Briskman are members, also supporting DC statehood.
While DC residents pay federal taxes, they have no voting representation in Congress. In this they join the residents of the U.S.’s five inhabited territories: American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Washington, D.C. Admission Act has passed the House of Representatives and is awaiting action in the Senate. It calls for the creation of “the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth,” named for Black statesman and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, and includes all of DC with exceptions for federal buildings.
If DC were to win statehood, it would be the first new member of the United States in 62 years—likely more, considering the transition process, which would include a Statehood Transition Commission and writing a state constitution. It would also be the fifth “commonwealth” among U.S. states, joining Virginia, although there is no practical difference attached to the naming convention.
The most recent new state in the union is Hawaii, which gained statehood on August 21, 1959, months after Alaska, which gained statehood on Jan. 3, 1959. Prior to that, the most recent new states were Arizona and New Mexico in 1912.