The long and hard-fought battle for D.C. statehood led by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton received some powerful backing recently when D.C.’s Karl Racine announced that 20 fellow attorneys general nationwide have joined in supporting the cause.
Racine said the attorneys general “affirm that District residents deserve voting rights and autonomy.”
Each have urged Congress to pass H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, a bill introduced by Norton that would make D.C. statehood a reality.
The announcement came as Racine and others celebrated Emancipation Day, which commemorates the end of slavery in the District in 1862.
“It also serves as a reminder of all the ways in which the District’s freedom and autonomy have not yet been fully realized,” Racine said.
The action represented the first time that state attorneys general from across the country have come together to support the District.
“The District’s over 700,000 residents work hard, raise families and pay the highest federal taxes per capita, and yet they are deprived of the fundamental right to participate meaningfully in our representative democracy,” the attorneys general wrote in a joint statement. “The District of Columbia deserves a voice in this country’s legislature and should be able to govern itself like any other state. The District’s residents deserve equal voting rights and autonomy under the law. We support statehood for the District of Columbia and urge passage of H.R. 51 to accomplish this goal.”
Statehood would place District residents on equal footing with residents of other states and give them a voice in decisions that already shape their lives. It would also grant the District local control of the criminal and civil justice system, which is currently administered directly by the federal government, and would allow locally-elected, accountable prosecutors to handle local crimes, Racine said.
On March 8, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, a sweeping voting rights bill that endorses full congressional voting rights and self-government for the District. The legislation has garnered a record-breaking 203 cosponsors from 39 states and three territories.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also has expressed ardent support for the bill, and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), who chairs the House oversight committee, has pledged to hold a hearing on the bill later this year.
“The fight for D.C. statehood is a fight for justice and equality and a fight to empower the District’s disenfranchised residents,” Racine said. “Support for our cause continues to grow and I am grateful to the advocates and activists working here in the District and across the country to stand up for our fundamental rights, and I am especially grateful to my fellow state attorneys general for joining us in supporting D.C. statehood for the first time.”
Racine added that he’s confident that a majority of the country’s attorneys general will eventually support statehood for the District.
Norton, who has long championed the cause of statehood, said she was pleased by the outpour of support.
“Attorneys general are trusted as a state’s chief legal counsel and the top prosecutor for their jurisdictions,” Norton said. “The recognition, for the first time ever, of 20 attorneys general speaks to the core issues of D.C. statehood – justice, fairness, and full representation in government.
“Our thanks are due to Attorney General Racine for his leadership on this issue central to democratic government in the U.S.,” she said. “We have already built historic support for D.C. statehood, and the support of these attorneys general only gives more power and credibility to our cause to become the 51st state of the United States.”
The 20 attorneys general who joined Racine and declared their support for D.C. statehood are:
Xavier Becerra (Calif.), William Tong (Conn.), Kathy Jennings (Del.), Clare E. Connors (Hawaii), Kwame Raoul (Ill.), Tom Miller (Iowa), Andy Beshear (Kentucky), Brian Frosh (Md.), Maura Healey (Mass.), Dana Nessel (Mich.), Keith Ellison (Minn.), Aaron Ford (Nev.), Hector Balderas (N.M.), Tish James (N.Y.), Josh Stein (N.C.), Ellen F. Rosenblum (Ore.), Josh Shapiro (Pa.), T.J. Donovan (Vt.), Mark Herring (Va.) and Bob Ferguson (Wash.).