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Voting Rights

Advocacy for Voting Rights Legislation

DC Appleseed is determined to end taxation without representation for DC residents. To make this happen, we are pursuing both Congressional voting rights and DC statehood. 

In the early years of the 21st century, DC Appleseed worked with DC Vote and Republican Tom Davis from Northern Virginia to develop legislation that came to be known as the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act. It called for adding two seats to the House: one for the overwhelmingly Democratic District and another for the next state in line to pick up a representative, Republican-leaning Utah. The legislation had bipartisan support but unfortunately, but when it was passed by the Senate, it also acquired an amendment that would have repealed all of DC’s current gun laws and prevented the District from enacting any future gun regulation. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the House sponsor of the legislation, tried for a year to get the amendment removed, but in 2010, the NRA was powerful enough to keep it on the bill. Finally, at Delegate Norton’s request, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer withdrew the legislation. 

In 2016, Mayor Muriel Bowser decided to launch an initiative to put DC statehood on the ballot, and she turned to DC Appleseed to help draft the timely constitution which was approved by 87 percent of DC voters in November of that year.

Support for Statehood

Voting Rights Litigation

IIn 2019, DC Appleseed and our pro bono legal team filed suit against Congress on behalf of DC residents. The suit claimed that Congress has the authority to grant DC residents full voting representation and that the failure of Congress to grant that right violates the residents’ constitutional rights. When that first court rejected the claim, we decided to appeal to the Supreme Court. Our appeal had strong support from the amicus briefs filed by the House of Representatives, groups of historians, law professors, leading attorneys and bar organizations. The court, however, turned away our appeal in November of 2021. It's now up to Congress to solve the problem of DC’s historic disenfranchisement. And the solution is for Congress to pass the legislation making the residential and commercial areas of DC the 51st state.

Even though the chances of Congress passing DC statehood legislation soon are very slim, DC Appleseed is currently working with the Mayor’s office on plans for the 51st state’s criminal justice system. For the past 20 years, DC residents convicted of felonies have become federal prisoners. When statehood becomes a reality, DC will transition to managing our own criminal justice system.

Criminal Justice Reform


Staff Contact:

Vanessa Batters-Thompson
 Neil Richardson

Pro Bono Partners:

Arent Fox Schiff LLP

Latham & Watkins LLP

Perkins Coie LLP

Sidley Austin LLP


Hogan Lovells LLP

Hughes Hubbard & Reed

Professor Alan Morrison

Wilmer Hale LLP

Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP

March for Statehood and Voting Rights

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