Society

City Might Allow Undocumented Immigrants To Vote

| by Robert Fowler
Voting booths at a polling placeVoting booths at a polling place

A Maryland city is considering granting voting rights to the undocumented immigrants living in the community. Such a measure would only allow for noncitizens in the city to cast a ballot in local elections.

College Park officials are currently mulling a charter amendment that would grant undocumented immigrants and green card holders in their city a right to vote in mayoral and city council elections. The measure would not extend to contests that have implications outside of the city, such as elections for governor, members of Congress, senators or president, The Baltimore Sun reports.

As of August 2017, 10 municipalities across Maryland have already allowed noncitizens to vote in local elections. College Park would be the largest Maryland city yet to extend limited voting rights to undocumented residents.

College Park City Councilwoman Christine Nagle, a sponsor of the charter amendment, asserted that even noncitizens deserve the right to have a say in how the city is run.

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"These are folks who have a significant stake in our community, and who rely on the facilities in our city," Nagle said. "To me, it just made sense."

Meanwhile, College City Park Councilwoman Mary C. Cook signaled that she would not support the measure.

"On a personal level, I do not agree that noncitizens should be voting," Cook said.

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The charter amendment would grant local voting rights to both legal permanent residents and undocumented immigrants.

Policy analyst Julio Murillo, of the immigrant advocacy group CASA, argued that granting noncitizens voting rights in local elections would strengthen community bonds.

"Whenever you open up elections to noncitizens, what you're really doing is sending a strong message that you celebrate your diversity," Murillo said. "You start to develop and encourage a practice of civic engagement. That transcends generations."

Jeff Werner of Help Save Maryland blasted the proposal, asserting that undocumented immigrants had forfeited their right to help shape their communities when they came into the U.S. illegally.

"What gives them that privilege?" Werner said.

College Park resident Laurence Provost voiced opposition to the measure, asserting that it would dilute the privileges of citizenship.

"Voting is a right, but it is also a privilege and there are standards for voting," Provost said, according to WTOP. "Citizenship is special."

Dan Blasburg, another College Park resident, said that he was torn over the charter amendment.

"I sit on the fence," Blasburg said. "I kind of see both sides. The hang-up I have is nonresidents of the city having a say in what happens with regards to city politics and what goes on. And I don't know how to rectify that."

The College Park City Council will hold a vote on the measure on Aug. 8.

Sources: The Baltimore Sun, WTOP / Featured Image: Sage Ross/Flickr / Embedded Images: Bgervais/Wikimedia Commons, Carmichaellibrary/Flickr

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