DC Council advances bill to let noncitizens vote

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Washington, D.C.’s city council on Tuesday voted to advance a bill that would allow noncitizen residents to vote in local elections.  

“Our immigrant neighbors of all statuses participate, contribute and care about our community in our city. They, like all DC residents, deserve a right to have a say in their government,” said D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen, introducing the bill during the Tuesday legislative meeting. 

“They raise families here, contribute to their community. They run businesses that people depend on, and they pay taxes that we decide how to spend. Yet they have no ability to elect local leaders who make decisions about their bodies, their businesses and their tax dollars,” Allen said. 

The bill would allow all noncitizen residents in the city who otherwise meet voting requirements to vote in local elections, including mayoral, school board and attorney general races — regardless of visa or documentation status.

The councilmembers voted 12-1 in favor of the bill on first reading, greenlighting the bill to go ahead for a final vote before it is sent to Mayor Muriel Bowser (D).

The bill comes as D.C. grapples with an influx of migrants transported into the city as Republican governors in three Southern border states protest the Biden administration’s immigration policies.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) alone has bused more than 10,000 migrants north to Democratic-led Washington, D.C., New York City and Chicago.

Abbott directly sent two buses to Vice President Harris’s Naval Observatory residence in D.C. as part of what he calls a protest of “sanctuary cities” and federal immigration policy. The action has drawn fire from many Democrats who say the governor is using the migrants as political pawns.  

Councilmember Mary Cheh was the sole vote against the noncitizen voting bill.

“This bill is eminently supportable, except for one aspect about it,” she said. “And I asked this question of the committee as a whole: Could someone who took the bus from Texas, or was put on the bus from Texas, or wherever, and dropped off at the vice president’s property, and then remained in the District of Columbia for 30 days and was 18 years old — could that person then vote in our local elections? And the answer was yes.” 

She suggested a longer threshold for residency than the 30-day benchmark.  

Others argued the addition of noncitizens to voter rolls would be unlikely to significantly influence elections.  

Tags D.C. Council immigration Muriel Bowser noncitizen voting noncitizens Voting voting rights Washington DC

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