APHA would welcome D.C. as the 51st state, "Washington, Douglass Commonwealth"

Date: Jun 26 2020

Contact: Media Relations 

Washington, D.C., June 26, 2020 – The American Public Health Association applauds the House of Representatives' historic vote today that would make Washington, D.C., the nation's 51st state, a move that would pave the way for more equitable treatment and funding of the capital, particularly significants now during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is truly an outstanding and history-making vote, the most significant in the District of Columbia’s statehood effort,” said APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD. “Statehood has long been sought by the District, which pays more federal taxes than many other states and has no significant vote for legislation in Congress. D.C. also has a minority-majority population and with statehood it would gain equity and remove a longstanding injustice to D.C.’s residents, now disenfranchised under the current system.”

APHA has supported D.C. statehood since the 1990s, when it passed a policy statement supporting such a move, saying the “citizens of the District of Columbia have fewer rights than citizens of any other US political entity, yet the District of Columbia is the only one of the five US jurisdictions that are not states whose residents are required to pay federal income taxes.” Without statehood, the District loses its impact on affecting public health and other matters.

The House-approved bill (HR 51), sponsored by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, (DC-At Large), declares D.C. “admission into the United States of the state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.”

The proposed name for the district is drawn from President George Washington and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who was from Maryland. The area would include most of the territory within the District of Columbia, which has more than 700,000 residents, a larger population than Vermont and Wyoming.

Del. Norton (D) represents D.C. in the House, but can only vote in committee and on procedural votes, not floor votes. D.C. has no representation in the Senate. Residents of the District couldn’t vote in presidential elections until 1963 with the passing of the 23rd Amendment. The House bill moves on to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he would not move it to the floor. President Trump has opposed the bill.

“The House vote today is not symbolic, it’s a step forward in the longtime fight to make D.C. a state,” Benjamin says. “There are many obstacles ahead, but this vote offers an opportunity for the many voices of D.C. to be heard.”


The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We are the only organization that combines a nearly 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Learn more at www.apha.org.