Illegal Immigrant Voting a Reality in Some States

John Hilliard, MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, Massachusetts), April 9, 2009

While voting rights for non-citizens sparks controversy here, other states allow residents without U.S. citizenship a chance to vote in some elections.

In Takoma Park, Md., non-citizens have been able to vote in local elections since March 1992, said the city clerk, Jessie Carpenter.

“The intention (was) to provide all the residents of the city the opportunity to vote in city elections,” said Carpenter.

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A few other Maryland communities allow non-citizen voting, but Takoma Park, a city of 18,000 with a large immigrant population from Central America and Africa, is the largest of them, she said. Non-citizens vote can vote for mayor, city council and on ballot questions, she said.

Maryland law gives cities and towns leeway to determine rules for local municipal elections, she said, allowing them to decide for themselves whether to allow non-citizen voting. Because Maryland school committees are county-based, they fall under state election laws which require U.S. citizenship to vote in state and federal elections, she said.

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Chicago and San Francisco allow non-citizen residents to vote for those cities’ school boards, and last month, a Maine state legislator proposed allowing non-citizens to vote in municipal elections there.

At least two Massachusetts communities–Amherst and Cambridge–approved measures that would allow non-citizen voting, but neither was implemented because the Legislature failed to act on them. (Massachusetts law requires voters to be U.S. citizens, and those communities’ voting measures would need an exemption approved by state lawmakers.)

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