Silver Chips Online

Right to vote extended to undocumented immigrants in College Park

College Park City Council votes to allow non-US citizens to vote

By Madeleine Tilley, Staff Writer
October 10, 2017
The College Park City Council voted 4-3 on Tuesday Sept. 12, in favor of an amendment allowing non-US citizens to vote in local elections at the College Park City Hall.

The amendment, made to Article IV of the College Park charter, authorizes non-US citizens who are permanent residents to register to vote in city elections. The amendment states that individuals are not eligible to vote if they have been convicted of a felony, are under guardianship for mental disability or have been convicted of buying or selling votes.

This decision comes a few weeks after the Trump administration announced that it would be repealing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that granted citizenship to young immigrants brought to the US as children.
College Park resident Emily Weant voices her opinion on the non-US citizen voting rights amendment. Courtesy of The Diamondback
College Park resident Emily Weant voices her opinion on the non-US citizen voting rights amendment.

The amendment was proposed only a few years after other Maryland towns, including Takoma Park, extended voting privileges to non-citizens.

Before passing the amendment to Article IV, the council opened the floor to discussion, allowing College Park constituents to voice their opinions. A majority of resident speakers opposed the amendment, including Emily Weant, a College Park resident. "I think it's a slap in the face to citizens, especially Latino immigrants who have earned their citizenship," Weant said.

Council member Fazlul Kabir brought up the issue that all voters' personal information would be recorded on a list, which would reveal the identity of undocumented immigrants who chose to vote, and emphasized the safekeeping of the list. "I understand that we'll be maintaining a supplemental voter list, and we have been looking into ways to protect this list from other entities," Kabir said.

Council attorneys indicated that the ensuring that list is protected could take one to two weeks, leading Kabir to push for a delayed vote on the amendment until the protection of the list could be guaranteed. "That means we're not quite ready yet, we're not quite confident yet that the voter list will be protected," Kabir said.

Council members expressed that not enough time had been spent discussing the charter amendment. A motion to further postpone the vote on the amendment, which was first introduced on June 13 and has been debated since, failed and resulted in further discussion on amendments to the amendment.

Two proposed amendments resulted in two separate ties: whether a referendum should take place in order to open the floor to more of the community and whether voting rights ought to be limited to non-citizens with green cards.

College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn cast the tiebreaking votes against both motions, explaining that everyone should have the right to vote. "To me, expanding access to the right to vote in our city is something that expands our community voice, not something that contracts it," Wojahn said.

According to the College Park City Council procedure, an amendment can only pass if it receives six out of eight votes in its favor in order to be adopted. The non-US citizen voting amendment will therefore be brought back at a later time for a second vote.

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/13604