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03-29-09, 11:19 PM #1
Bill would let non-citizens of U.S. vote in local elections
AUGUSTA — Lawmakers are preparing to consider a bill that would let communities choose to allow non-U.S. citizens to vote in municipal elections.
Proponents argue that letting non-citizen immigrants vote on local issues would include them in the community and provide incentive for them to pursue citizenship.
Critics say voting is a right that should be reserved for U.S. citizens, and some suggest that newcomers to the country don't necessarily have the language skills or the knowledge of issues needed to make an informed vote.
The bill, LD 1195, is being sponsored by Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, and co-sponsored by Rep. Brian Bolduc, D-Auburn. It was referred this week to the Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee.
Alfond said he spoke to a number of households in his one-time role as state director of the League of Young Voters. He would talk to residents about issues in upcoming local elections, Alfond said, and then learn that they couldn't vote because they weren't U.S. citizens.
"I want to look at this," said Alfond. "Is there a way to give people in our communities a bigger way to be involved?"
There's a variety of legal Maine residents who are not U.S. citizens, said Alfond, including doctors, refugees, students, hockey players and more.
Some might live here legally for decades without becoming citizens, meaning they can't vote on local issues that affect them, he said. And a citizen might move to the state for a year, take part in an election and then move away.
Alfond said that didn't seem right.
Allowing that part of the community to vote would be inclusive, said Alfond, and would give more people a voice. It also would give them an incentive to become citizens, so they could vote in state and national elections as well, he said.
Specifics on the bill would need to be developed in the committee, but Alfond said he envisions it applying to immigrants who are here legally. And it would be community governing bodies – town or city councils – that could decide whether to allow the non-citizens to vote in local elections.
Ron Hayduk, professor of political science at the Borough of Manhattan Community College and author of the book "Democracy for All," said immigrants who are not citizens are allowed to vote in a number of communities.
Chicago, for instance, allows them to vote in school elections, and six towns in Maryland allow them to vote in all local elections. They can vote in the Massachusetts towns of Cambridge, Amherst and Newton, Hayduk said, and proposals have been made to do the same in Chelsea and Somerville. And the issue probably will resurface in Boston after a 2007 defeat.
The basic argument for allowing non-citizens to vote is that groups excluded from voting are more likely to be discriminated against, Hayduk said.
"It thwarts the power, the potential and promise of democracy," he said. "We're all served by having a government that's more representative, more accountable and more responsive to all its members."
Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said the mechanics of allowing non-citizens to vote would be pretty simple. Non-citizens couldn't be included in the electronic, federally funded voter rolls, so a separate paper list of voters would have to be kept, he said.
Dunlap said he doesn't think Alfond's proposal does any harm.
"Whenever you get more people to participate, you add legitimacy to that process," Dunlap said. "The voice of the public, I think, is extraordinarily important."
Hans Von Spakovsky, a legal scholar at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said he sees several problems with the non-citizen proposal.
If local, state and federal elections are generally printed on the same ballot, they would have to be separated to allow non-citizens to vote. And getting a voter registration card could be a way to thwart federal labor laws, he
"At the core of it, I think it's a bad idea, because people who are here as residents are not people who have assimilated and become part of the American culture and the American society," said Von Spakovsky, whose parents were immigrants. "They have made a decision not to become U.S. citizens. That means they have not entered the U.S. social compact."
Reaction was mixed in Portland's immigrant community.
"I'm very supportive, very thrilled that somebody is working on it," said Eric Nkusi, executive director of the Intore Club, a Portland-based immigrant and refugee advocacy association. "This is the best thing that could happen to the community."
Nkusi said his group has actually researched this topic, and has found that when immigrants aren't engaged in their community, it creates isolation.
"Knowing how Mainers are very democratic and very good with their neighbors – with us immigrants – I have no doubt that people in the counties and the cities would support that," Nkusi said. "Why would they not support it?
"We pay the same taxes, our children go to the same schools, we share the burden and the good of the city," he said. "If we don't vote, that means our voices don't count. That goes against (the) American spirit."
Mohamud Barre, president of the Somali Culture and Development Association of Maine, said he's concerned that many immigrants aren't informed enough to vote.
"They don't know what's going on, they don't speak English," said Barre, who is originally from Somalia.
When immigrants get the right to vote through citizenship, Barre said, they've spent time learning about the country and working on language skills. That allows them to become informed, he said.
"They have at least learned what's going on – they can make a decision," he said.
03-30-09, 01:46 AM #2
Oh please.Do not war for peace. If you must war, war for justice. For without justice there is no peace. -me
We are who we choose to be.
R.I.P. Arielle. 08/20/2010-09/16/2012
03-30-09, 01:54 AM #3
03-30-09, 02:00 AM #4
03-30-09, 02:16 AM #5
Maine, where even the Republicans are Democrats.I'm your huckleberry...
Quemadmoeum gladis nemeinum occidit, occidentus telum est!
You can be the weapon, and the gun in your hand is a tool - or the gun is a weapon and you are the tool.
I was looking for a saint who was a devil of a lover,
but every girl I found was either one way or the other...
03-30-09, 08:18 AM #6
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.
Meanwhile, fishing in Russia:
"When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that justifies it." -- Frederic Bastiat
"Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter." Ernest Hemingway
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03-30-09, 10:38 AM #7
That is insane.
03-30-09, 11:30 AM #8
ACORN is way ahead of them....... We, as a nation , have lost our collective minds.SI VIS PACEM PARA BELLUM-Ex-Sheriff Martin Howe to Will Kane in "High Noon"
"It's a great life. You risk your skin catching killers and the juries turn them loose so they can come back and shoot at you again. If your honest , your poor your whole life. And , In the end , you wind up dying all alone on some dirty street. For what? For nothing. For a tin star."
Far from being a handicap to command, compassion is the measure of it. For unless one values the lives of his soldiers and is tormented by their ordeals , he is unfit to command.
-General Omar Bradley, United States Army
03-30-09, 11:48 AM #9
"Proponents argue that letting non-citizen immigrants vote on local issues would include them in the community and provide incentive for them to pursue citizenship."
Why become a citizen when you can have and do what ever a citizen can have/do without even working for it? Geesh.....Never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way" ~Martin Luther King, Jr
04-01-09, 04:41 AM #10
I am divided on the issue. On one hand, it would give me personally the opportunity to vote. On the other hand, as Wolven said, one less reason to become a citizenAlpha Phi Sigma Alum - Alpha Delta Chapter
04-01-09, 12:24 PM #11Chief Wheaties PisserVerified LEO
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Anyone have a list of nations that allow non-citizens to vote in their local elections?
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