DC Council advances bill that would let noncitizens vote

In a 12-1 vote Tuesday, the D.C. Council passed an election bill that, if approved in a second vote, would let noncitizens living in the District vote in local elections.

The legislation would allow undocumented immigrants, green card holders and people with visas to vote for positions in the city, such as mayor, council member and attorney general. They would not be allowed to vote in federal elections.

If the council approves the bill in its final vote next month, noncitizens would be allowed to vote as long as they are 18 years of age or older at the time of the election, and have lived in the District for at least 30 days.

The lone “no” vote came from Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, who argued that the bill should required people to live in the District for longer than 30 days before being eligible to vote.

“I would like to know whether we’d consider something in terms of a longer period of time,” Cheh said during Tuesday’s meeting.

But Ward 6 Councilmember, and the bill’s principal sponsor, Charles Allen disagreed, saying 30 days was enough time.

“Our immigrant neighbors of all statuses participate, contribute and care about our community and our city. They, like all D.C. residents, deserve to have a say in our government,” Allen said.

“This bill is in line with our D.C. values, and this council’s history of expanding the right to vote and welcoming new voices into our political process and government.”

Once the council gives the bill final approval, the mayor will then need to sign it. Congress would get a 30-day review period before allowing it to become local law or striking it down.

If approved, D.C. would join Maryland’s Hyattsville and Takoma Park in extending the right to vote in local elections to noncitizens.

The Migration Policy Institute says D.C. had more than 51,000 noncitizens in 2020.

In other election-related news, the council also approved the first reading of a bill that would make voting by mail a permanent feature of city elections. If approved, the bill would prompt a shift to citywide vote centers for in-person voting, instead of traditional neighborhood-based precincts.

WTOP’s Dick Uliano contributed to this report.

Lauren Hamilton

Lauren Hamilton is an Associate Producer at WTOP and a graduate of the University of Maryland. She enjoys covering the intersection of arts, culture and social justice in local communities. She began as an intern with WTOP in the summer of 2021.

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