Local officials in a large Washington, D.C., suburb in Maryland are weighing a measure to allow legal noncitizens and illegal immigrants to vote in mayoral and city council elections, The Baltimore Sun reported Sunday.
College Park city, part of Prince George’s County and home to the University of Maryland, has more than 30,000 residents.
Maryland allows its cities to pass charter amendments and choose individually whether or not to allow legal noncitizens to vote in local elections, and 10 municipalities across two counties already allow it, Fox News reported. Should College Park choose to pass this charter amendment, it would become the biggest Maryland county to do so. College Park’s deliberations are now taking place amid renewed scrutiny over illegal immigration stemming from the emphasis President Donald Trump’s administration has placed upon the issue.
“These are folks who have a significant stake in our community, and who rely on the facilities in our city,” said College Park City Councilwoman Christine Nagle, a sponsor of the charter’s proposed amendment, according to The Sun. “To me, it just made sense.”
Nagle and the measure’s other supporters argue that both legal noncitizens and illegal immigrants deserve the opportunity to have a say in their local community’s future, noting that these individuals still cannot vote in presidential elections, congressional races, or gubernatorial elections.
But opponents of the measure believe that only legal citizens should have the right to participate fully in their community’s electoral processes.
“On a personal level, I do not agree that noncitizens should be voting,” College Park City Councilwoman Mary C. Cook told The Sun, although she added that she would listen to the voices of her constituents on the matter.
Although only 10 Maryland communities allow noncitizens to vote, Fox News reported that the number has increased rapidly over the past few months. Whereas the first Maryland county to allow noncitizen voting did so in 1918 and the second allowed it in 1976, two cities have allowed it since 2016: Hyattsville and Mount Rainier, both of which are also in Prince George’s County.
Patrick Paschall, a former Hyattsville council member, told The Sun that his city purposefully left the distinction between legal noncitizens and illegal immigrants out of consideration when it passed its measure.
“We very intentionally made it so that we did not have questions about citizenship status,” Paschall said. “It undermines the premise of noncitizen voting to try to draw a distinction.”
One election integrity watchdog said the decision to blur the lines between legal permanent residents and illegal immigrants is part of a wider liberal effort to erode the sanctity of the vote.
Logan Churchwell, the communications director for the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), told LifeZette in an email that although Maryland municipalities have the legal right to “set eligibility standards for local elections,” this “latest move is indicative of a much larger effort” on the part of progressives to cement their political power.
“Progressives have long viewed noncitizen (shortcut for legal or illegal immigrant here) voting as a way to build lasting political power regardless of momentary trends (i.e. populism),” he wrote. “The modern Left understands that it cannot inflict its will — even in the bluest of states — in single moves. Incrementalism is key.”
Churchwell noted that such “incrementalism” consists of “desensitizing American citizens to noncitizen voting in small jurisdictions with even smaller issues on the ballot,” “handcuffing voter registrars to a very limited set of options where maintenance is concerned,” and subjecting them to “risk a lawsuit.”
In addition, this move on the part of progressives serves to combat “groups like PILF who are working to clean bloated voter rolls,” “convince the public that noncitizen voting in larger elections is okay, given that we’ve done it before,” “accuse those who study rates of registration and voting by noncitizens as racists,” and “draw comparisons between resistance to civil rights movements and hawkishness on immigration issues,” he said.
“Since the establishment Left has become so worried that their stay in the political wilderness will be a lengthy one — they’re willing to air fringe ideas for serious consideration,” Churchwell added. “If citizenship need not be required to access the ballot box, what reasons remain to naturalize and assimilate?”