WASHINGTON — College Park, Maryland, will allow noncitizens to vote in local elections.
The city council passed the measure on a vote of 4-3. It came after a summer filled with heated debate.
The measure applies to green-card holders, undocumented immigrants and those with student-visas.
“This is the most important way to show all residents have a say in the community we share together,” said Todd Larsen, one of the dozens of people who spoke to council members ahead of the vote. “Allowing all people to vote in municipal elections is going to make College Park more inclusive.”
“A true democracy allows the affected community to vote on measures that impact them,” said Elaine Grant, another supporter of the measure.
Others who addressed the council were firmly against the idea.
“Voting is a right of the citizens,” said Beth DeBosky. “There’s a way to include the diverse populations in this community without giving them something that is an intrinsic right to citizens.”
There were several opponents who said the issue should be decided through a referendum at the ballot box and not by lawmakers.
“This is a democracy and the citizens have a right to vote on this,” said Emily Weant. “The council makes an assumption that everybody in the city is in favor of noncitizens voting, and I don’t necessarily think that that’s the case.”
Mayor Patrick Wojahn said the majority of residents who have submitted comments support the move.
Under the measure, noncitizens would not be eligible to vote if they have been convicted of a felony and are serving time in prison or if they have been convicted of buying or selling votes.
Other Maryland municipalities that allow residents who are not citizens to vote include Takoma Park, Hyattsville, Somerset, Glen Echo, Martin’s Additions and Mt. Rainier.