A D.C. suburb in Maryland is considering a plan that would give undocumented immigrants the right to vote, making their city the largest in the Old Line State to do so.
The city, which is home of the University of Maryland’s main campus and nearly 30,000 residents, is weighing approval of the new measure to let noncitizens cast ballots for mayor and City Council, The Baltimore Sun reported Sunday.
Supporters of the measure say that local elections focus on issues like trash collection, and other municipal services and they are issues that affect residents of the city, regardless of their citizenship status.
“These are folks who have a significant stake in our community, and who rely on the facilities in our city,” College Park City Councilwoman Christine Nagle, who is sponsoring the measure, said to the newspaper. “To me, it just made sense.”
Others in the community say that immigrants should not have a say until they have completed the process of becoming a citizen.
“On a personal level, I do not agree that noncitizens should be voting,” College Park City Councilwoman Mary C. Cook said before adding that she will listen to her constituents before making a decision.
Jeff Werner, an advocate for tighter immigration restrictions with the advocacy group Help Save Maryland told the newspaper that he felt even more strongly about undocumented immigrants going to the voting booth.
“What gives them that privilege?” He asked.
A total of 10 municipalities across two counties allow noncitizens to vote in local elections. Voters in Takoma Park, a liberal enclave in Montgomery County, narrowly approved a referendum in making the town one of the first to allow the practice in Maryland.
It was preceded by Barnesville — a small town near Sugarloaf Mountain in Montgomery County — has allowed noncitizens to vote since 1918 and Somerset, which approved noncitizen voting in 1976.
The number of communities in Maryland adopting the measure has surged in recent months. Hyattsville in Prince George’s County approved immigrant voting just last year, followed by Mount Rainier, also in Prince George’s County.
The College Park proposal like the other municipalities, does not distinguish between legal permanent residents and undocumented immigrants.
Those in favor of the policy say that’s by design.
“We very intentionally made it so that we did not have questions about citizenship status,” said Patrick Paschall, a former member of the Hyattsville council who championed the legislation there said to the Sun. “It undermines the premise of noncitizen voting to try to draw a distinction.”