Is Washington, D.C. a state?
No. Washington, D.C. is not a state.
The District has no voting representation in the US Congress but residents are allowed to elect a representative, without voting rights, to the House of Representatives.
Origins of Washington, D.C.
As per Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution, “To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of Particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States…”.
At a time of growing disagreement between the northern and southern states, James Madison made a strong case in the Federalist No. 43, published on 23 January 1788, arguing for the need to establish a national capital on federal territory that would remain neutral.
Years of hectic negotiations between members of the Congress, and led by James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, resulted in the Congress passing the Residency Act on 17 July, 1790. The Act cleared the way for a permanent seat for the federal government with Congress having exclusive jurisdiction over the proposed capital.
Before this, George Washington had initially set up his office in New York City before shifting the capital to Philadelphia, where it operated for around a decade. It was after Thomas Jefferson, who represented southern interests at the time, pushed for the capital to be located further south, that the present location was chosen.
The site for the city was personally selected by George Washington who became the first President (1789-97). The city was established on the northern side of the Potomac River, having the state of Maryland on the east, north and west side of D.C’s borders, and the state of Virginia falling on the south of the Potomac.
The land was ceded by neighboring states of Maryland and Virginia. The Capital was named “Washington” after its first President and the “District of Colombia (D.C.)” was named to honor the famous explorer, Christopher Columbus.
In 1802, Congress allowed for a Mayor to be appointed for the District and a council to be elected by local residents. In 1820, the Mayor was allowed to be elected. This form of local government remained functional till 1874, when Congress withdrew the resident’s right to vote an elected government and was replaced by a 3-member board of commissioners.
The citizens of D.C. remained without the right to vote till 1961, when the twenty third amendment to the Constitution was passed, permitting a limited number of votes to the Electoral College.
It was with the passing of the District Home Rule Act, 1973 that residents finally got the right to elect their local government but still have no voting representative in the Congress.
Debate over statehood
The nation remains divided over the issue of statehood for Washington, D.C. Traditionally, Democrats have been in favor of granting statehood, while Republicans have remained opposed to it. It is widely believed that granting of statehood will give the Democrats more seats in the Congress. Those opposing statehood argue of federal authority and jurisdiction clashing with local state laws in future. The debate remains open.