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Maryland City Council Votes to Let Noncitizens Vote

In College Park, Maryland, you no longer have to be a legal resident of the United States to vote in municipal elections.

A 4-3 city council vote Tuesday will now give undocumented immigrants, green card holders and student visa holders the right to cast local ballots, as long as they are residents of College Park.

The vote does not affect or reflect the voting parameters of other cities and municipalities in Maryland, as the state is one of a handful that allows individual cities to decide their respective voting requirements.

On Tuesday, residents packed the town hall and voiced their opinions both for and against the amendment.

“We elected you to take responsibility for making the important decisions that impact our diverse community,” said Elaine Grant, a College Park resident in favor of the amendment. “Do you want to stand with the voices of xenophobia, extremism and nativism? Or do you want to say to this city, and to the world, the country that’s watching, here in College Park we stand for inclusion?”

Beth Debrosky, a College Park resident who opposed the idea, made her position clear.

“If you give it away you diminish the amount of work that naturalized citizens in College Park, and across the country, frankly, have done in order to become citizens so that they could have that,” DeBrosky said.

“They worked for that. They waited for it, they paid for it, they prayed for it and they got it. And you want to give it away like it’s just something you can just give away,” she continued.

WTTG reporter Melanie Alnwick said the vote was originally supposed to take place a few months ago, but “there had been some serious threats against city council members,” which prompted a delay in the voting process.

However, she said the Tuesday meeting was “mostly civilized.”

Alnwick also said a city council member had suggested altering the proposal so it would extend voting rights only to green card holders rather than to undocumented immigrants living illegally in the United States. However, Mayor Patrick Wojahn cast the deciding vote to strike that proposal down.

College Park council members, Mary Cook, Robert Day and Dustyn Kujawa voted against the referendum, while council members Monroe Dennis, Stephanie Stullich, Christine Nagle and P.J. Brennan all vote in favor.

It should be noted that this is not the first amendment of this type.

The city of Takoma Park in Maryland has allowed non-citizen residents to vote in municipal elections since 1993.

Since 1989, non-citizen Chicago residents have been allowed to vote in local school council elections if their children are students enrolled in the schools, or if they live within the attendance boundaries of the school. In 2016, Proposition N passed in San Francisco, following in the footsteps of Chicago.

In order to vote in College Park elections, residents must be 18 years old by the city’s next election, have never committed a felony, and not registered to vote in another municipality.

They also must be able to communicate a desire to vote. If they have that desire, they can now make it a reality in College Park.