WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The D.C. Statehood Green Party is urging voters to reject the proposed "Constitution/Advisory Referendum on Statehood" ( http://lims.dccouncil.us/Legislation/B21-0826 ) to be voted on in the Nov. 8 general election unless the draft Constitution is revised, requiring a Constitutional Convention upon achieving statehood.
Party leaders said that the D.C. Statehood Green Party fully supports statehood, but objects to the referendum as written because the process it advances for approving a new Constitution violates basic democratic principles.
Statehood Greens: Unless it provides for a Constitutional Convention with elected delegates and ratification of the Constitution by voters, the referendum should be rejected.
The D.C. Statehood Green Party has campaigned for self-determination and democratic self-governance for the District ever since the party was founded in 1970 as the D.C. Statehood Party by Julius Hobson, Josephine Butler, and other human rights activists.
Statehood would free D.C. from control by Congress and the White House over local legislation, policy, and budgets and grant D.C. two voting U.S. Senators and one voting U.S. Representative. Statehood would guarantee D.C. residents the same rights and status as all other Americans, i.e., those who live in the 50 states.
The Statehood Green Party is demanding that the amendment provision in the draft Constitution require the convening of a legitimate Constitution for the new state, to be drafted by elected delegates and ratified by D.C. voters, all to be completed within one year upon becoming a state. Unless the Nov. 8 referendum incorporates this provision and this is made transparent before voting begins, D.C. voters should vote no.
"The D.C. Statehood Party, now D.C. Statehood Green Party, has always supported and stood for statehood for the particular cause of democracy," said Darryl Moch, chair of the party. "There are many challenges with this referendum but for the cause of democracy the call for a constitutional convention and the amendment process must be amended before the voters vote. DCSGP urges the council to make these critical changes in the true spirit of democracy and freedom."
According to a statement by party leaders (below), no one elected the New Columbia Statehood Commission to come up with the new Constitution that is under consideration by the DC Council: "[T]his was not a democratic process, no one elected the New Columbia Statehood Commission to come up with a new Constitution, now being considered by the DC Council. This task is not in their job description. No one was delegate to a real Constitutional Convention..."
Statehood Greens said that a Constitutional Convention with elected delegates must follow the example of the 1982 D.C. statehood convention, which produced a "visionary 1982 Constitution, the only one ratified by voters."
Final approval of the proposed constitution must follow a fully transparent process, said party leaders, otherwise, D.C. voters "will be asked to 'approve a Constitution of the State of New Columbia to be adopted by the Council' without actually seeing the final text."
According to the Statehood Green statement, the referendum should have either included amended language or omitted reference to the Constitution: "We vigorously lobbied the Council to remove any mention of a constitution in the wording of this Referendum, leaving a simple vote Yes or No on statehood, and of course we would have strongly urged a vote of Yes if this change was implemented, but the Council rejected our plea."
The D.C. Statehood Green Party also prefers the name Douglass Commonwealth for the new state.
The D.C. Statehood Green Party, an affiliate of the Green Party of the United States, has major-party status in the District of Columbia and will have a slate of candidates in the Nov. 8 general election. From 2004 until 2015, the Green Party was the only party that supported D.C. statehood in its national platform. In 2016, the Democratic Party restored endorsement of D.C. statehood to its platform.
DC Statehood Green Party position on draft Constitution/Advisory Referendum on Statehood (B21-826, Constitution of the State of New Columbia Approval Amendment Act of 2016).
The whole process to produce this "Constitution" is a facade of democracy, starting with the three hearings of the so-called Constitutional Convention held in May and June as well as the DC Council hearings today and on October 6. Only an elected delegated Constitutional Convention along the lines of the 1982 model can produce a legitimate Constitution for what we prefer as the name of our state, "The Douglass Commonwealth", with the name of our state to be likewise determined by this Convention. As Professor Maurice Jackson, a delegate to the1982 Constitutional Convention and Chair of DC Commission on African American Affairs, said at Lincoln Cottage on May 6, 2016 "If we want democracy, we have to give democracy".
We say so-called Constitutional Convention because this was not a democratic process. No one elected the New Columbia Statehood Commission to come up with a new Constitution, now being considered by the DC Council. This task is not in their job description. No one was delegate to a real Constitutional Convention in this charade, nor should anyone so claim for those who testify to the DC Council in this public hearing. A delegate is elected, participates in the drafting of a constitution and has a vote on its final product.
We first point out that unless the final approval of this "Constitution" is completed and made fully transparent to our electorate before November 8, we will be asked to "approve a Constitution of the State of New Columbia to be adopted by the Council" without actually seeing the final text. Is this Council actually expecting our electorate to approve a Constitution without full transparency regarding its text? If a second vote on this bill comes after November 8 that is precisely what will happen, an outrageous assault on democratic practice.
We want to emphasize the top-down undemocratic process that created this "Constitution", and its gross deficiencies, for example in its Bill of Rights and number of legislators in the House of Delegates in comparison with the visionary 1982 Constitution, the only one ratified by voters. Therefore we urge the DC electorate to vote NO on the Advisory Referendum on November 8 since we only get one vote on all sections of the text. The Council could have facilitated a strong positive vote for Statehood by either removing language regarding the constitution or providing for separate votes on each section.
We vigorously lobbied the Council to remove any mention of a constitution in the wording of this Referendum, leaving a simple vote Yes or No on statehood, and of course we would have strongly urged a vote of Yes if this change was implemented, but the Council rejected our plea. Hence the DC Council and Mayor should be held accountable for a weak or negative vote on this Advisory Referendum on November 8. For the reasons we provided, such a vote should not be interpreted as as a vote against DC Statehood.
There is only one revision in this draft "Constitution" that may change our decision to vote No, a change in the amendment process spelled out in Article VII, Section 3.
We urge the deletion of this text as it now stands, all sections, noting especially the following section:
"c. On or about the fifth anniversary of the effective date of the Admission Act, the House of Delegates may call for a Constitutional Convention to assess the transition from a federal district to a member of the Union."
As a substitute we urge the following language:
"No later than one month following the effective date of the Admission Act, the House of Delegates shall initiate steps to hold a Constitutional Convention with the charge of creating a constitution for our new state with this process following the model of the 1982 Constitutional Convention, with elected delegates. The name of our new state shall be reconsidered in this Constitutional Convention. The completion of the work of this Constitutional Convention and the ratification vote of its Constitution must occur no more than one year after the effective date of the Admissions Act. If ratified by a majority of qualified voters this Constitution shall replace 'The Constitution of the State of New Columbia.' The election of new members to the House of Delegates should only be scheduled after this process is completed."
If the Council makes this change final and perfectly transparent to our electorate with the Constitution ready, printed and on line in final voting form, with the publication date included at least a week before early voting and absentee balloting begins then we will revisit this decision to vote No.
We support parallel legislation by the Council for the convening of a Constitutional Convention in 2017 following the 1982 model as the basis for a petition for statehood to the U.S. Congress. Further, the likelihood that a statehood bill will be approved by Congress and signed by the President in 2017 should be clear by the results of the Nov. 8 election, and the legislative agenda of both the incoming President and Congress. If this likelihood is low, then we support efforts, e.g., by Council legislation or Initiative, for the convening of a Constitutional Convention in 2017 following the 1982 model, as the basis for a petition for statehood to the U.S. Congress.