College Park Is Now Largest US City Allowing Undocumented Immigrants to Vote in Local Elections

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Update, September 18 at 4 p.m.: Because the vote didn’t reach the necessary six votes from the council, it didn’t pass. “It is with considerable embarrassment and regret that we acknowledge our oversight,” Mayor Patrick Wojahn said on Saturday, according to The Washington Post.

Despite paying taxes and contributing to the culture, undocumented immigrants do not have the right to vote in most local elections across the country. But with the laws cities enact having real effects on their day-to-day lives, it means many don’t have a say in the way their local community is run. This week, College Park, Maryland became the largest US city to allow noncitizens to vote in local elections. Following in the footsteps of Hyattsville, Mount Rainier, and Takoma Park, College Park will give undocumented immigrants the right to vote starting in 2019, according to The Washington Post.

In the state of Maryland, towns and cities can choose who votes in local elections. Just like the issue of immigration, this garnered strong opinions on both sides. During a four-hour meeting, many explained why they stood in opposition or support of this law. “Even if it weren’t for the national context, it would be important for us to vote in support of noncitizens voting,” former mayor Andrew Fellows said. “We … should experiment in inclusivity wherever we possibly can.”

In August, the council initially postponed the vote. On Tuesday, the eight members deadlocked on two amendments (whether they should let the city’s resident vote on the issue or whether to limit the voting rights to noncitizens with green cards). Mayor Patrick Wojahn voted against them, breaking the tie. When they voted again, the vote passed 4 to 3, with Fazlul Kabir abstaining.