At tonight’s meeting, the City Council will discuss the possibility of extending the ability to vote in municipal elections to City residents who are not citizens of the United States.
Currently, the City uses the voter’s list supplied by the Prince George’s County Board of Elections. Prince George’s County maintains voter rolls that comply with the state of Maryland voter registration qualifications. State qualifications include the requirements that a person is a citizen of the United States, not be serving a court ordered the sentence of imprisonment for a felony conviction, not have a conviction for buying or selling votes and not be under guardianship for mental disability found by a court.
Many residents who do not have US citizenship are part of the College Park community. They have children in our schools and pay City property taxes. By allowing these members of our community to participate in the City’s municipal election they will feel more invested in civic life and be able to have a say in local issues that impact their community.
Currently, seven municipalities in Maryland allow non-US citizens to vote in their municipal elections. They are Hyattsville, Takoma Park, Barnesville, Garrett Park, Glen Echo, Martin’s Additions and Somerset.
From 1776 until the 1920s, noncitizens were widely permitted to participate in elections and there were 40 states that allowed it. A wave of pervasive anti-immigrant sentiment after World War I caused Congress to restrict the number of new immigrants and caused states to change their inclusive practices. It was not until 1996 that Congress passed legislation making it a crime for noncitizens to vote in federal elections.
Enabling City residents who are not US citizens to vote in municipal elections will require an amendment to the City’s Charter. Council would also need to decide whether to keep a supplemental list of voters who are non-US Citizens and still use the County’s voter’s list or maintain a complete list of voters eligible to vote in City elections.