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Non-Citizens Voting? Some Municipalities Say Yes

by Countable | 8.10.17

What’s the story?

The City Council of College Park, Maryland is debating a proposal to allow non-citizens— green card holders, students with visas, and undocumented immigrants, to vote in elections for local officials, reports the New York Times.

Why does it matter?

If passed, the move would not be without precedent, currently and historically. Currently, ten municipalities in Maryland allow non-citizen voting in local elections. San Francisco also allows non-citizens to vote in school board elections if they have students enrolled in the system. Four municipalities in Massachusetts are waiting for state legislation that would permit their measures allowing non-citizen voting to go into effect.

Historically, forty states used to allow non-citizen voting, though none have allowed it since 1926. Per the Times:

"Under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, noncitizens are barred from voting in national elections. However, states and municipalities can set their own policies, and state and federal courts have held that noncitizen voting laws are constitutional.”

In College Park, just over 20 percent of residents are foreign born, though that number includes both naturalized citizens and non-citizens. Supporters of the measure being debated, like Councilwoman Christine Nagle, argue that these individuals are members of the community and should be able to participate in decisions that affect their daily lives:

"The mayor and City Council are not deciding national policy. We make decisions about trash pickup, snow removal and equipment for the parks. I think we have shared concerns with our neighbors regardless of whether they are U.S. citizens. Our neighbors have children in school, work, pay property taxes and income taxes, and make their home in College Park just like we do. As residents of our community, I think, they also should be able to have a say in electing the city’s leadership."

Opponents of the measure, like Councilwoman Mary C. Cook, insist allowing non-citizens to vote cheapens the efforts of immigrants who have taken the long road to naturalization:

"The feedback that I’ve gotten from my residents in District 4 has been almost overwhelming against the proposed change in our charter… [they believe before voting people should] be in the country for a certain length of time so they can acquire a familiarity with the city, the country, the language, and pledge their allegiance to America."

What do you think?

Should non-citizens be able to vote in local elections? Why or why not? If you believe that non-citizens should be able to vote in local elections, what about state and federal elections? Does the same argument apply? Why or why not?

Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think and tell US what you think in the comments!

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(Photo Credit: Britt Neilson via Flickr / Creative Commons)

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(333)
  • William
    08/10/2017
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    Voting is a right of citizenship. I am opposed to any action allowing non-citizens to vote.

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  • Cathy
    08/10/2017
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    As someone who is pro immigrants I disagree with non-citizens voting. Voting is a right of citizenship earned by being born here or learning about our government to become a citizen. If non-citizens are allowed to vote outside people could influence their votes easily by threats or the offer of money. I would disagree on this on both the federal and local levels.

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  • Kim
    08/10/2017
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    Voting is a right and a duty of every American citizen. Non-citizens should not be allowed to vote.

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  • Lindsay
    08/10/2017
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    As a green card holding Canadian living in the US permanently with my husband and children, I would love to be able to vote! We live here, work here, our kids will be going to school here. We pay taxes. We are not here on a whim. Decisions made here affect us and I would love to be involved. Also, not "anyone" would be able to vote, green cards aren't that easy to come by. Why do you think so many people are undocumented? It takes time and a lot of money. As a resident, I would love the right to vote!

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  • Chance
    08/10/2017
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    Can I go to their country and vote? NO. So why should they be able to in my country?

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  • Billy
    08/10/2017
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    I think that green card holders and long-term work visas should be allowed to vote in local elections, but not those on student visas. I was on a student visa in the U.K. and I would not want some idiot teenager like me screwing up an election that I would not suffer the consequences from.

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  • Lawrence
    08/10/2017
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    Absolutely not.

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  • James
    08/10/2017
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    It is against the law and I demand stiff punishment for those caught as well as those who tolerate it!

    Like (42)
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  • Chrissboom
    08/10/2017
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    Absolutely not. Voting is for citizens and citizens only. This is democrats just trying to create more votes for themselves. Pathetic.

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  • Michael
    08/10/2017
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    A definite no. Only citizens with a valid photo ID should be allowed to vote in any election. There are paths to citizenship and if a non citizen is so inclined to vote they should become a citizen and then exercise that right.

    Like (37)
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  • Gordy
    08/10/2017
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    No no no I'm sick of this....why do we have to continue to have to be watching our backs for this kind of overreach...do I vote in Russia? Mexico? China? And every country out there. Remember sample inspections of elections in sanctuary city's Prove non citizens ARE voteing but if u say anything u r a RACIST!!!! Democrats are blocking any tipe of inspections like this!!! SAD

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  • Paul
    08/10/2017
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    I lived in Canada for a number of years. I was allowed to take part in local but not Federal elections. It seemed fair- I was paying local taxes.

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  • Poli.Sci
    08/10/2017
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    Voting in any country is left to the people who are citizens of that country, not those visiting for long periods of time or working. "We the People of the United States of America...." not We the People of the United States of America, and all those visiting or working within the USA territories,....

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  • Darby
    08/10/2017
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    Ok first off anyone saying that it is unconstitutional clearly did not read the article or newsbit, it states that state and federal courts have UPHELD that states and municipalities can allow non-citizen voting. I 100% agree with the fact they work and live in the city, they should get a vote in the city's leadership since they are paying taxes. Do I believe that it should be the same for national elections?... not necessarily, if they pay taxes and are here legally, why shouldn't they get to vote for the gov't leadership? THEY ARE PAYING TAXES! if they aren't paying taxes then NO obvious answer! The American people during the Revolution Era said, "No taxation without representation" meaning they newly formed colonies did not want to be taxed without being represented in Englands parliament, the same should apply here if the non-citizens are paying taxes they should be represented in all elections and by members of congress! This country is formed by immigrants! Why does this country make it's so so difficult to become a citizen, because we have a racist president, that's why!

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  • William
    08/10/2017
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    I am amazed at the amount of people who think "only" citizens can vote. No, residents in many circumstances can legally vote. So as long as someone is a resident they should be allowed to vote. Why should a resident of 20-30 years of living in this country not be allowed to vote but an 18 year old citizen can?

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  • John
    08/10/2017
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    It doesn't make sense to me. I'm in favor of immigration and as soon as they become citizens they should vote, but not before.

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  • Curtis
    08/10/2017
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    Most comments here are from people who didn't read the article. This has nothing to do with federal rights or privileges. There are rights and privileges at many levels of government and the US was formed with that in mind. The people of this municipality are free to decide--for themselves--whether certain classes of residents have a say.

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  • Michael
    08/10/2017
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    This says what we as a people and nation are truly about. Inclusion, trust, communication, and courage. Reaching out and including is what I look for in a representative.

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  • Terri
    08/10/2017
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    This becomes a more complex issue as we tighten the ability of immigrants, living snd working in this country, to legally become citizens. I believe voting is the right of citizens, but immigrants who are here legally on green cards need to have positive ways for their voices to be heard and counted. Ultimately we need to streamline a path to citizenship. Find ways to take people out of the shadows so that they may become legal, positive, productive citizens with all the rights and responsibilities that entails

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  • Scott
    08/10/2017
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    Other localities allow non-citizens to vote in limited ways, and some cities, like London, allow non-residents to vote in their elections if a person works full-time within city limits. Certainly some elections should be limited to citizens (like federal matters), but I see nothing wrong with allowing all adult residents to vote on local matters, citizen or not.

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