Voters at a polling station in Cambridge, Mass. Photo: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Officials in Boston are considering whether to allow noncitizens living in the U.S. legally to vote in municipal elections — such as for mayor, council members, and other local officials — in one of the latest attempts to grant voting rights to immigrants.
Why it matters: This comes as the immigration debate is getting more divisive across the country, and it will likely draw new anti-immigration sentiments to the polls. And while Boston's push to expand voting rights to non-U.S. citizens seems like a surprising one, 40 states had allowed noncitizens to vote in local and federal elections from 1776 until the 1920s, according to Ron Hayduk, a political scientist at San Francisco State University.
The details: The move in Boston, spearheaded by Council President Andrea Campbell, will be the subject of a council committee hearing on Tuesday.
- Campbell, in a Twitter post on Monday, cautioned that “Tomorrow is just a conversation, not a vote on an ordinance. I can no longer only go to rallies or send resolutions to Trump; what can we DO at the local level to support our immigrants? The discussion will include voting & OTHER possibilities.”
- The measure would have to go through a home-rule petition and needs approval from the council, mayor, state Legislature and governor in order change the law, the Boston Herald notes.
Be smart: Noncitizens are prohibited from voting in federal and statewide elections under federal law, but states and municipalities are allowed to set their own policies.
The backdrop: College Park, Maryland will became the largest U.S. city to allow noncitizens to vote in local elections starting in 2019 through a law passed by the Council last year, per the Washington Post. Undocumented immigrants and student visa holders will also be allowed to vote.
- 10 other municipalities in Maryland's Montgomery and Prince George’s counties also allow noncitizens to vote in local elections, according to the Baltimore Sun. Takoma Park became the first to allow the practice when voters approved a referendum in 1991.
- In Chicago, noncitizens can vote in school board elections. San Francisco voters approved a similar measure last November.