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Does Washington DC Have a Governor, Senators and Representatives?

Jessica Ellis
Updated: May 17, 2024

Washington DC is the capital city of the United States and is under the total jurisdiction of the United States Congress. As the District of Columbia, it is a federal district rather than a state, and has different governmental rules than either the 50 states in the nation, and US-governed territories such as Guam. A vocal group of people believe that citizens who live there are not treated as being equal to state citizens, as their rights and representation in Congress are different. It has no governor or senators, and its representative has no vote in the House.

The District of Columbia is really considered a city, rather than a state. As such, it has a mayor rather than a governor. Originally, the city was run by federally-appointed overseers, with the first group appointed by President George Washington in 1790. In 1973, the United States passed the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, which created mayoral elections and gave some power over local issues to the mayor and city council. The United States Congress still retains ultimate authority over the District, and can still overturn any mayoral or council decisions.

While Washington DC does not have any senators, it does have a non-voting member of the House of Representatives. Like Puerto Rico and Guam representatives, this elected official can sit on committees, lobby for or introduce legislature, and join floor debates, but he or she cannot vote. Despite their lack of representation in Congress, citizens of the District are subject to all federal laws. This leads many to question the position of DC citizens, as other US territories are not subject to law without representation.

Voting rights for Washington DC citizens are different than those for states. Until the Twenty-Third Amendment to the US Constitution was passed in 1961, DC residents could not vote in any federal election, including for presidency. While the law made an exemption for presidential elections, people who live in the District still cannot vote in most federal elections. The justification for the voting laws is complicated, but experts suggest that it is essential that the seat of federal government remain neutral, lest partisan politics become an even larger problem.

Many people feel that DC citizens should be afforded the same voting rights as any US citizen, including being able to send voting delegates to Congress. Some argue that the District should become a separate state, while others believe it should be integrated into Virginia or Maryland. Toward the efforts of DC statehood, the city has elected two “shadow” senators and a representative since 1978. These officials are meant to lobby for statehood but are not recognized by Congress and should not be confused with the non-voting representative.

The election and voting process in Washington DC is a confusing and complicated situation that many feel is to the detriment of the city. Some argue that the little power granted to the mayor, council, and non-voting representative are not enough to ensure the safety or well-being of the area. As Congress seems to be avoiding the issue of DC statehood, it is uncertain whether permanent residents of the District will ever be granted rights comparable to other US citizens.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for America Explained. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon1003912 — On Oct 06, 2020

Well, we now have the Article of Confederation and the Northwest Ordnance back in power as our Constitution because of the ignorance of smart ones who cannot understand Article 6 section 1 about our engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution. I mean all you have to do is read these documents and see all the power Congress had and compare them today and see the truth about this, but you will never because a simple minded person pointed it out.

It's a sad day for America when we the people of the United States went from being members of the state legislatures, the electors, to just slaves of the people with the power to write laws (government) as it is written in #15 of the Federalist papers.

I wish to be a free person, one who owns my home and not having to pay rent to the mayor of our city. What I mean is to pay taxes to them so they can provide a service to others.

By GeorgeRocky1 — On Sep 30, 2020

Jessica Ellis, were you told not to read the Northwest Ordinance because it has no legal stands in Law on the meaning of the Constitution, but it will shed some light on the Constitution about Territories and State. And was it not a Law pass by the Engagements of the People of the United State before the Adoption of this Constitution, Article 6 section 1?

Then you will see that your article has many Contradictions in it. If Congress OF THE United States, must follow the Constitution then only Members of a State can be on the floor of the Congress, Article Four section Three. This is a general Clause, if you refer to Congress as a Union of Members of the States not a Political Party

"New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; "

I know what you are about to say because of the 1833 resolutions of the Supreme Court on the subject that the United States refers to only Government of the United States and of the Government of the State. " We the People of the United States in order to form a more perfect Union". When was the 13th and the 14th Passed?

Ask the question who are the Members in Congress? The people of the United States and who are the Members in the State Legislature? The People of the United States who are the Persons who are born or Naturalized in the United States , and subject to the jurisdictions thereof, are Citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

I can show you how easing it is to read the Federalist and the Anti-Federalist papers if you see the subject about them as People forming a Government, the Electors of each of the State, are the Governed. The Forming of One People under the Laws of Nature and then the Constitution forming the Persons Born or Naturalized in the United States that are Political Connected or the Political Band( the Law call the Constitution for the United States of American) as the Members of the State Legislature of each of the States. We are United as ONE People and then by Law we are separated as the Electors of each of the States, note this is written in #57 of the Federalist Paper by Madison words of "Who are the Electors". I will refer to the Book by John S. Mill on the Subject " Representative Government" in his own words, not the persons who will lie to you about it.

As in #51 of the Federalist papers where the Schools only Focus on the part about a Single Government and not our compound republic of America, which in a State we have a Compound republic of the State.

And the sad part of all of this is, as a Woman you are, by the quote of Benjamin Franklin on "What government did you give us" you had the Right as a Member of the State Legislature and as the official Elector of the State wherein you reside you had the right to vote given to you by ordaining and establishing these Laws.

If you read the original Clause or statement you will see that Doctor Benjamin Franklin, not a Statesman, but a Person who is governed gave the Government to a Woman of the State the Power that lies in the Constitution. And if you only follow the Facts of Law, which Madison always stated, and not the Laws of Nature, to understand the Constitution it is the most easy read in Law that ever existed.

Is a Conviction a Bill by the definition of Law? Then you can follow the Cases of Impeachment and the case of Removal in the Constitution and see the games these people play with the America People.

I wish someone can write a true Book on Understanding the Constitution and not the Book that you get in your first year of law school.

So this Amendment that reads "IF Washington DC was a State" is a joke because it is not a State then how can these People fall under the Jurisdiction of Congress if you have the 13th Amendment in place. Oh, only black lives matter when I read these Amendment to MY Constitution. The Compact between my State and Yours, the Citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

By anon1002085 — On Sep 01, 2019

You do say that D.C. has a mayor and not a governor, which people are going back and forth about.

Let's talk about history by using the facts of law, as Madison would say. After the 13 states were formed, the other states that followed were given the rules on how a state would be formed and these rules are in the Northwest Ordinance of July 13, 1787, which was revised on this date. This was one of the reasons the Compromise Acts of 1850 were unconstitutional, because Congress cannot change these rules. They only can be changed by Constitutional means, i.e., the Constitution of the United states.

This shows that a state has the title of "Governor" and not a "Mayor". Now go to Amendment 23. If the District of D.C. were a state, (the Northwest Ordinance refers to only two Districts: the state and the United States), then a state must have a governor and not a mayor, which shows that the District of Columbia is and always will be part of the districts of the people of the U.S. states of Maryland and Virginia, along with a small portion of West Virginia. But the capital of these districts in every state is Washington D.C.

Why do you think that when the British burned down Washington D.C., they surrendered and not the states? Because the people of the United States just moved the building of their federal administration to another state. This is why each state passed the Constitution of the United States as state law and it is not the laws of the federal administration.

When you read these rules for each state, which contains people of the United States, you will see they have the right by our Constitution of the United States to have one district in each of our states, which will house the building of our federal administration, which Article 1 section 8:17 states, and also limited this district to only 10 miles. The Congress of the United States can only write the rules for these buildings, and nothing else.

There is a lot more about our union if you follow, as Lincoln said in his first inaugural address, all of the documents of our founding.

"The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen states expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was 'to form a more perfect Union.'"

Note here: he only declared this is only one objective of the Constitution, which is controlled by the people of the United States, who are the official electors of their states, who in turn are the citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.

And maybe why today the Supreme Court tells us that we cannot use them, although the right to use them is in Article 6 section 1:

1: All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

Thoughts? Opinions?

By anon296613 — On Oct 11, 2012

I think that the whole idea of Washington D.C. becoming a state is totally absurd. Who cares? They get to vote for the United States President, that's what really matters? Right?

By koali — On Sep 21, 2012

Yes they should have representation. This isn't 1790. It's 2012.

By anon292652 — On Sep 21, 2012

The people of DC should absolutely be represented in both house and Senate. Someone should work from the ground up to establish their city as a state. It would have to start in order to be followed through. It is ridiculous these citizens are excluded, which is what it is, because of the founding in 1790. Have you ever seen those paintings of it in 1790? Not quite what it is now. The capitol and government buildings seem like a backdrop to the rest of the real life. Keep, of course, the 50 states' representatives and their families out of the count.

By anon273653 — On Jun 07, 2012

A city of 600,000 should be a state? Really? DC was created as a "state neutral" venue for national politics. Some wanted New York as it already was the business and finance center, while the southern, agricultural interests did not want the balance of power tipped in that direction.

What would the "state" interests of Washington DC be? How much of the land would need to remain federal in any case? How many residents work at federal facilities/parks/police, etc.? What "state" issues does a city have? What would the interests of its senators and representatives be?

Remaining neutral is not an "old argument;" it is the reason it was created in the first place. They have the same representation as US citizens in any city, and they are not in a state, so do not have state representation.

D.C. was built as the nation's capital, and represents the entire nation. It is a special case that was set in place to facilitate unity and smoother working of the nation. People living there should be proud to be a part of it.

By anon131387 — On Dec 02, 2010

D.C. was supposed to be separate and neutral by design. The federal government's role, after all, is to be an agent to the states, not the other way around.

To make D.C. a state, in fact, would be usurping the Constitution on many levels by granting the powers of statehood. Read the Constitution and understand why no is the only possible answer for a free people.

By arod2b42 — On Nov 22, 2010


I think the best solution for helping DC citizens rights is an increased awareness and care among the general voting public.

By Leonidas226 — On Nov 22, 2010

Throughout history a negligence or ignorance on the part of the leadership of a country due to their "comfort" in their power has led to a necessarily strong amount of political action. Unfortunately, such action has often turned sour in the form or rioting. Washington may one day have to face the reality of citizens rights in that "city" due to upset members of its system.

By latte31 — On Nov 18, 2010

I think that the city should actually become a state because they should have the same representation as those throughout the country.

Right now they can only vote for Mayor of Washington D.C. and for President of the United States. They should have members of the House of Representatives to represent the area.

The old argument that they did not want any state to house the capital so it could be neutral, is no longer a good idea. It is leaving the residents of Washington D.C. at a disadvantage with respect to political elections.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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