CITY COUNCIL IN COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND VOTES TO GIVE VOTE TO NON U.S. CITIZENS
republished below in full unedited for informational, educational, and research purposes:
With Mayor Patrick Wojahn breaking the council’s original 4-4 tie,
the city council of College Park, Maryland, on September 12 approved by a
4-3 vote a measure to allow resident non-citizens, presumably including
illegal immigrants, to vote in local elections.
College Park is home to the University of Maryland campus, and the
charter amendment as passed will allow foreign students attending the
university on education visas to vote in city elections, provided they
have met College Park’s residency requirements for voting.
The vote took place after four hours of debate, during which both sides vigorously defended their position.
One councilman, Fazlul Kabir, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen and
University of Maryland instructor, proposed putting the question up for
voter consideration in November’s election. After his call for a
referendum was voted down, Kabir proposed amending the city charter to
allow only noncitizens who are permanent residents — informally known as
“green card” holders — to register to vote. That amendment was rejected
after Wojahn broke the council’s 4-4 tie.
Kabir abstained from the final vote.
The Diamondback, the student newspaper for the University of
Maryland, reported that one city resident supporting the change to give
noncitizens the vote said opponents were “white supremacists”
However, Beth Debrovsky, a resident who voted against the change,
argued that only citizens should be allowed to vote as it is
“Although you come up here and you say that there are hundreds of
citizens and residents of College Park that are for this charter, I can
tell you that there are thousands against it,” she said, according to
Fox 5 DC. “Voting is a right of the citizens. It’s plain and clear. It’s
constitutional. It’s also written at the state level and it also
belongs at the local level.”
Fox 5 DC also quoted a statement from a supporter of the change, Todd
Larson, who campaigned for the proposal and is co-director of the Green
America group. “The reality is allowing all people to vote in municipal
elections is going to make College Park more inclusive, and that has
been the history of voting rights expansion in the United States and
what has happened in our neighbors in Maryland who have expanded voting
rights to non-U.S. citizens,” he maintained.
The Washington Times reported that College Park holds
municipal elections in odd-numbered years in November, and they are
conducted by city officials separate from county, state, and federal
races, for which voters must be U.S. citizens. The charter amendment
will go into effect in the November 2019 election.
The decision to allow non-citizens (and even those who are in this
country illegally) breaks a long-standing principle that with rights
come responsibilities. Voting has long been considered a right afforded
only to citizens who have accepted all of the responsibilities that come
with citizenship, such as serving on juries when summoned.
Update: Three days after the College Park,
Maryland, city council voted 4-3 to allow non-citizens to vote, the city
issued a news release stating that the vote did not meet the
requirements to change the city’s charter. On the evening of September
15, the City of College Park said in a news release: “For most Council
actions, a simple majority of Council members present must vote in favor
of an item for it to be adopted. However, changes to the Charter have a
different requirement. The City Charter was amended in June to require
the affirmative vote of six elected officials to change the
Charter.” Fox5 DC News in Washington reported that city officials said
they are now notifying residents to inform them that the measure did not