Members of the D.C. Council Dec. 3 moved a bill to give voting rights to undocumented residents, putting it among a few jurisdictions across the country to consider giving a political voice to people who are not legal citizens.
The measure was proposed by Council members David Grosso, Muriel Bowser, Jim Graham and Tommy Wells, who issued a statement about the so-called “Local Resident Voting Rights Act of 2013.” The measure would amend the District of Columbia Election Code to include among legal voters anyone over the age of 18 who has resided in the District for 30 days or more and is a permanent resident of the United States under federal law, even if they are not a citizen.
“D.C. residents know all too well what it means to be denied equal voting rights in the United States,” Wells said in the statement. “It goes without question that every resident of D.C. deserves a vote and a voice in our local government. D.C. needs to be a great place for everyone to live, work and raise a family. No one should be denied these basic rights.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 53,975 residents in the District are foreign born, but not naturalized U.S. citizens. More than 90% of that population is 18 years of age or older, Wells’ statement said.
Currently, only a handful of jurisdictions allow noncitizens can vote in local elections in the U.S. Chicago and New York City allow noncitizens to cast ballots in school board elections. Six jurisdictions in Montgomery County, including Takoma Park, have allowed it for years.
Measures to give voting rights to permanent residents are also pending in New York City for municipal elections and in four jurisdictions in Massachusetts– Cambridge, Amherst, Newton and Brookline, which need state legislation to implement their local laws.
Legislation to allow noncitizens to vote in municipal elections would likely increase the voting population in DC’s Wards 1, 2, 3, and 4 where over 18 percent of the ward population is foreign born, the statement said. The greatest impact would be in Wards 1 and 4.
The D.C. measure will now move to committee. It is not expected to come up for a vote until late February or early March, according to a Wells spokesman.