After garnering national attention this week for passing a measure to allow illegal immigrants and other non-citizens to cast ballots in local elections, the city council in College Park, Maryland dismissed the change, saying that it didn’t get enough “yes” votes.
Four out seven of College Park’s city council members voted on Tuesday night in favor of letting illegal immigrants have the privilege to vote in their city. However, later that week, on Friday, the city came back with the news that all amendments to the city charter require six yes votes for passage, so the decision was void.
Most measures before the city council require only a simple majority for passage, but in June the city’s council increased the number of votes needed to amend the charter to seven, officials said.
The council is scheduled to revisit the issue at a meeting next Tuesday.
Home of the University of Maryland’s flagship campus, College Park could become the 11th municipality in Maryland alone to allow non-citizens to vote in local races. The New York Times reported in August that 10 municipalities in Maryland already allow non-citizen voting in local elections. They include Hyattsville and Mount Rainier, which changed their laws in the past year.
Council member Fazlul Kabir did not vote Tuesday, saying his concerns were as much about the process as the measure.
“I think we went too fast and didn’t give our residents a chance to speak,” he told Fox News on Friday.
Kabir said the measure is a “good thing,” because it gives more residents the opportunity to make elected officials more responsible.
“But the risk is that this could be a slippery slope,” he said. “Other cities can do this. And the change could trickle down beyond College Park to counties and states, and it could even become a national issue. That’s the risk I was feeling.”
In November, San Francisco voters approved Proposition N, which grants non-citizens in San Francisco the right to vote in local board of education races beginning in 2018. The noncitizen voters must be at least 18 years old and cannot be in prison or on parole for a felony conviction.
In Massachusetts, the city of Cambridge and the town of Amherst have moved to introduce non-citizen voting and are awaiting approval, according to the Massachusetts State House News Service.
New York City has grappled with the notion of allowing non-citizens to participate in its city elections for years, and are likely to do so in the near future.
Mayor Patrick Wojahn said the majority of College Park residents who submitted comments support the amendment. If passed, it would allow green-card holders, undocumented immigrants and student-visa holders to vote in local elections. However, homeless Americans would not be able to vote, as Tucker Carlson pointed out on his show on Fox News earlier this week.
College Park’s city council had planned to vote on the proposal in August, but threats against council members pushed the vote back.
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