College Park considers extending local voting rights to noncitizens

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Arun Ivatury is a 12-year resident of College Park.

WASHINGTON — College Park’s mayor and council are considering a move to allow residents who are not United States citizens to vote in local elections.

The move would require change the city’s charter amendment, but College Park would not be alone in allowing noncitizens to vote in municipal elections. Other Maryland municipalities that allow residents who are not citizens to vote include Takoma Park, Hyattsville, Somerset, Glen Echo, Martin’s Additions and most recently, Mt. Rainier.

“I’m kind of torn. I sit on the fence. I kind of see both sides,” said Dan Blasburg of College Park. “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.”

Citing the number and types of visas offered to noncitizens, Blasburg wondered which type of visa holders would be eligible to vote.

“I’m 60-40 against it at this time, but I’m open to listening to both sides,” Blasburg said.

Laurence Provost spoke before the council Tuesday evening, saying he opposed extending the right to vote in local elections to noncitizens.

“Voting is a right, but it is also a privilege and there are standards for voting,” Provost said. “Citizenship is special.”

Arun Ivatury, a 12-year resident of College Park, spoke at the meeting in support of the proposal. Noting that other speakers referred to the Constitution, he said, “There’s nothing in the Constitution that prevents a municipality from allowing a noncitizen to vote.”

Ivatury told the mayor and council that his support for the right of noncitizens to vote is rooted in fairness. Currently, he said, many noncitizens who are residents pay property taxes, own businesses and even fight for their adopted country — yet cannot vote in municipal elections.

“There is something seriously unfair about this,” he said.

The issue is scheduled for a vote Aug. 8.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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