Portland explore idea of allowing non-citizens to vote

Voting button.
Voting button.(Source: MGN)
Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 6:26 AM EST
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PORTLAND, Maine (WMTW) - Portland’s Charter Commission Election Committee is considering a proposal to let all adult residents vote in municipal elections, whether they are citizens or not.

Universal resident voting would allow asylum seekers, permanent residents and other immigrants vote for city elections and ballot initiatives. Those people are prohibited by law from voting in federal and state elections.

There was a public hearing Tuesday via Zoom to discuss the proposal.

“This is a matter of justice,” explained Commissioner Patricia Washburn, who drafted the proposal. “Every adult in our community should have a voice in how we run that community. The barriers and long delays in our immigration system mean many people have to spend years here before they have a chance to seek citizenship.

“Immigrants and asylum seekers work in local businesses, pay local taxes, volunteer in local organizations, and send their kids to local schools. Allowing them to vote will help encourage policies that reduce discrimination and increase opportunity – and when those things happen, the whole city wins.”

The list of voters in the city is public record, but the proposal states that citizenship status of voters would not be made public, beyond what is already on the public record.

There are a few other cities across the country who allow non-citizens to vote, including New York, San Francisco, Montpelier, Vermont and several cities in Maryland.

The meeting will also include workshop sessions on clean elections and a proposed elections commission.

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