Sunday Video: The Fight For America’s 51st State


The fight to make Washington, D.C. a state has been a long one. But the idea has been consistently brushed aside. Why do people in the district want statehood and what would it take to make it happen?

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Stephen is an urban planner with a passion for promoting sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He advocates for smart policies, regulations, and implementation programs that enhance urban environments by committing to quality design, accommodating growth, providing a diversity of housing choices, and adequately providing public services. Stephen primarily writes about land use and transportation issues.


  1. The District of Columbia has more population than the states of Vermont and Wyoming. It has nearly the population as Alaska and North Dakota. Its residents deserve the same number of representatives and Senators.

    But, the issue is more than this. The Senators in Wyoming only represent ~285,000 residents, but in California their Senators represent a whopping ~19,750,000, or more than 68 times. The end result is that smaller states have incredible clout and control in the Senate, which happens to approve judicial and presidential appointments, power far beyond what the Founding Fathers had intended.

    In order to lessen this lopsided disproportion, I’ve proposed this change: for each multiple of the average state population, that state gets 2 additional U.S. Senators. Presently, that average is ~6.4 million. California has over 33 million more than that average. Divide the two amounts, make it an integer, and California would get 10 more U.S. Senators. Texas, with 22+ million more than the average, would get 6 more U.S. Senators. Florida and New York would get 4 more. An alternative would be to add a Senator for each half of the average state’s population, which would result in another Senator for Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, and Michigan. Either way would be fine by me. Neither option changes the Senate to the House. Neither option eliminates the tenet of smaller states having more clout than they do in the House, for the minimum of 2 Senators would be retained. And, the people in the larger states would have better constituent service: California’s 12 Senators would each represent ~3.3 million citizens, or about 1/6th of what they do today.

  2. Adding another sovereign state to an already balkanized metro area is a terrible idea from an urbanist perspective. There are much better ways to provide fair representation that don’t create arbitrary lines between government services or encourage provincial decision making. Creating a state out of <15% of a metro's population is a recipe for disastrous urban planning.

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