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Metro Brief: Grosso introduces bill to expand voting rights in local elections to non-citizen, DC residents

District of Columbia

On February 9, 2015

Councilmember David Grosso (I-At-Large) introduced the Local Resident Voting Rights Act of 2015, a bill to grant voting rights in local municipal elections to all non-citizens in D.C. with permanent residency immigration status.

The full text of Grosso’s statement follows:

This morning along with Councilmembers Allen, Nadeau, Evans and Silverman, I introduced the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015. This bill would grant voting rights in local municipal elections to D.C. residents who are not U.S. citizens but have permanent residency status.

“All politics is local” is a common phrase in the U.S. political system and what most District residents care about are the tangible things that impact their day-to-day lives like potholes, playgrounds, taxes, snow removal, trash collection, red light cameras and more.  All of these issues are important to voters in D.C. Unfortunately, not all of our residents have a say in choosing the officials who make these decisions. In my opinion, that is unjust.

Since 1970, the District of Columbia has had a steady increase in the number of foreign-born residents. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2012), approximately 53,975 residents in the District are foreign born, but not naturalized U.S. citizens. Over 90% of that population is 18 years of age or older. These are taxpayers who should have the opportunity to have their voices heard in local elections.

For most of American history, non-citizens were permitted to vote in 22 states and federal territories. It was not until the 1920s that, amidst anti-immigrant hysteria, lawmakers began to bar non-citizens from voting in local and statewide elections. Unfortunately, this hysteria continues across the United States, but it does not need to continue any longer in the District of Columbia.

Currently, there are seven jurisdictions where non-citizens can vote in local elections in the U.S., six of which are in neighboring Maryland. None of these cities or towns has experienced incidents of voting fraud with regard to non-citizens voting in federal elections. A similar bill was introduced in the Council in 2004 and unfortunately, due to the political climate at the time regarding immigration reform, it did not receive full consideration by this Council. Eleven years later, the time is now to reignite this conversation.

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