Permanent legal immigrant residents who are not U.S. citizens residing in D.C. could some day vote on municipal issues, if some members of the City Council have it their way.
By H. Nelson Goodson
Hispanic News Network U.S.A.
January 23, 2015
Washington, D.C. - On Tuesday, D.C. At-large Councilman David Grosso introduced the following bill, Local Residents Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015 (LRVRAA2015), which would extend and allow permanent residency immigrants with legal status who are not U.S. citizens the right to vote on local municipal issues affecting their lives. Grosso wants to extend the electoral process to all legal immigrant residents, so they can elect municipal representatives as well.
Grosso stated, "This bill would grant voting rights in local municipal elections to D.C. residents who are not U.S. citizens but have permanent residency status."
"All politics is local" is a common phrase in the U.S. political system and what most District residents care about are the tangible things that affect their day-to-day lives like potholes, playgrounds, taxes, snow removal, trash collection, red light cameras and more. All of these issues are important to voters in D.C. Unfortunately, not all of our residents have a say in choosing the officials who make these decisions. In my opinion, that is unjust.
"Since 1970, the District of Columbia has had a steady increase in the number of foreign-born residents. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2012), approximately 53,975 residents in the District are foreign born, but not naturalized U.S. citizens. Over 90% of that population is 18 years of age or older. These are taxpayers who should have the opportunity to have their voices heard in local elections.
"For most of American history, non-citizens were permitted to vote in 22 states and federal territories. It was not until the 1920s that, amidst anti-immigrant hysteria, lawmakers began to bar non-citizens from voting in local and statewide elections. Unfortunately, this hysteria continues across the United States, but it does not need to continue any longer in the District of Columbia.
"Currently, there are seven jurisdictions where non-citizens can vote in local elections in the U.S., six of which are in neighboring Maryland. None of these cities or towns has experienced incidents of voting fraud with regard to non-citizens voting in federal elections. A similar bill was introduced in the Council in 2004 and unfortunately, due to the political climate at the time regarding immigration reform, it did not receive full consideration by this Council. Eleven years later, the time is now to reignite this conversation." Sponsors of the bill include, Council members Allen, Nadeau, Evans and Silverman.
If the LRVRAA2015 is approved, D.C. would become the first municipality in the U.S. to allow immigrants legally in the U.S. residing in D.C. to vote. Today, the City of Chicago allows legal status immigrants who are none U.S. citizens to vote in school board elections.
California now allows for non-citizens to practice law, get into jury lists and become poll monitors in elections.