Article Lead Image

last week tonight

John Oliver will convince you that D.C. deserves statehood

Oliver says D.C. should get full statehood—and fast.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw


Posted on Aug 3, 2015   Updated on May 28, 2021, 5:59 am CDT

John Oliver just made a strong argument for creating a new U.S. state—and it’s a place that has already been part of the country for centuries.

Washington, D.C., is in a very weird situation when it comes to voting rights. Despite being at the heart of American democracy and having a population greater than Wyoming or Vermont, the District of Columbia doesn’t have full representation in Congress.

In fact, Congress has the power to override decisions made by D.C.’s mayor and city council. In one case, D.C. wanted to introduce needle exchanges to help prevent the spread of HIV, but it was blocked by a representative from Georgia. Did he have any link to D.C. or its citizens? No. He just disapproved of needle exchanges.

This kind of power imbalance, Oliver explained, is precisely why D.C. needs its own representative in Congress.

As Oliver pointed out, the current arrangement leaves the mayor of D.C. with the same kind of ceremonial power as a student council president. Sure, the mayor is democratically elected and has an impressive-sounding title. But all of the serious decisions are still made by someone else.

Screengrab via Last Week Tonight/YouTube

Share this article
*First Published: Aug 3, 2015, 8:13 am CDT