During a time of heightened crackdowns on undocumented immigration with orders emanating from D.C., the Beltway community of College Park, Md., is weighing whether to open up the voting process to non-citizens.
At a College Park City Council meeting tomorrow, local lawmakers will vote on a city charter amendment that would allow undocumented residents to vote in local elections. Essentially, the resolution would remove language stipulating that a voter must be a citizen of the United States to cast a vote in local elections.
Noteworthy: the change would allow non-citizens to vote in mayoral or council elections, as well as for referenda affecting city services like trash collection and snow removal. However, undocumented residents would still not be allowed to vote in state or federal elections.
The measure was first introduced at a council hearing on June 13, according to the bill text. Since then, dozens of residents in the Prince George’s County town have submitted testimony both supporting or opposing the idea. (Read here, starting on p. 39.)
Supporters have argued it would make their city of 30,000 or so people a more welcoming place, and that those people already rely on city services anyway. Those opposing it have concerns about people who may not pay the same proportion (or possibly any) of their income to local taxes getting a say in setting public policy. Others also cited worries about undocumented residents not simply applying for citizenship if they want to vote.
The Baltimore Sun’s John Fritze reports College Park would be the 11th municipality in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties to allow non-citizens to vote, assuming the council approves the change. Others include Hyattsville and Mount Rainier (both as of last year), Takoma Park and Somerset.
Such a proposal would have far greater gravity in Baltimore, which has more than 600,000 people and a heftier immigrant population. As a result of the city’s “welcoming” attitude toward undocumented immigrants – which in 2017 simply means not stopping or detaining them without a warrant – the Trump administration has threatened exclusion from a pilot program targeting violent crime in major U.S. cities using federal, state and local resources.