Washington, DC, Council Moves Forward On Allowing Non-Citizens To Vote

The city council of Washington, D.C., voted overwhelmingly this week to move an ordinance forward that is designed to allow non-citizens to vote in its local elections.

The Washington, D.C. city council voted 12-1 to advance a bill that if passed and signed into law would allow noncitizens to vote in local elections. The bill says that if a person who is not a U.S. citizen is “otherwise qualified” to vote and has lived in Washington for at least 30 days they will be permitted to cast a ballot.

Council member Charles Allen is the primary sponsor of the bill and said before Tuesday’s vote that it is “in line with our D.C. values and this council’s history of expanding the right to vote and welcoming new voices into our political process and government.”

Allen added that the city’s “immigrant neighbors of all statuses” are part of the community and contribute and care about “their government.” He said that since they pay taxes they should have the ability to elect the local leaders “who make decisions about their bodies, their businesses and their tax dollars.”

Allen said that allowing illegal immigrants and legal non-citizen residents to vote makes sense to him since the city already allows people to vote who do not have a fixed address, are in jail, cannot read, and are college students from “far away states.”

The bill was approved to move forward by a 12-1 vote. The only council member to vote against it was Mary Cheh, and she said her reason for not supporting it is that she feels the 30-day residency requirement is too short for a non-citizen to have to wait to vote. She pointed out that there are illegal migrants arriving all the time in the District on buses from Texas, and they should have to stay in the city for at least 60 days. She said 30 days is “too flimsy.”

The bill must pass a second vote before the council next month, and then be approved by Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser before it goes into legal effect.

The New York City Council made news last December when it passed a similar ordinance. When the rule was finally adopted, it faced immediate legal challenges. A New York State court ruled that the ordinance was unconstitutional under the state constitution and threw it out.

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