WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Every vote counts and D.C. Council is now moving forward with a plan to let more people cast their ballots. A new bill would allow non-citizens living in the District to vote in local elections but not in federal elections. Some voters in the District were all about the bill while others were hesitant.
“If you’re here in D.C. and you’re a part of the city like you should be able to have your voice heard,” D.C. resident Abbey O’Brien explained.
The Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2021 would effectively remove the requirement of U.S. citizenship when voting in local elections in the District. This would give visa or green card holders, the ability to vote in local elections. Undocumented immigrants and deferred action for childhood arrivals or DACA recipients would also be eligible.
“Regardless of their status and they’re contributing, and they’re a part of D.C. and they have every right to express their voice if they feel so inclined,” O’Brien explained. “We have people that are citizens that aren’t voting. So if someone isn’t a citizen and they want to vote, by all means.”
Lifelong D.C. resident and voter Ali Rashedi echoed O’Brien’s sentiments.
“It shouldn’t matter if you’re not a citizen or if you are a citizen,” Rashedi said. “I think it’s just important that you have a voice and especially in a city where, you know, we don’t get much of a voice with statehood rights.”
People would still need to meet certain qualifications like the minimum age of 18, legal competency to vote, and proof of residence in the District for at least 30 days before the intended election. Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen has led the sponsorship of this bill which was first introduced in 2021, highlighting the contributions of non-citizens to the District.
“They raise families here and contribute to their community, they run businesses that people depend on, and they pay taxes that we decide how to spend,” Allen explained. “Yet they have no ability to elect local leaders who make decisions about their bodies, their businesses, and their tax dollars.”
Although 30 days of residency is already required in dc voting laws, Ward 1 Councilmember Mary Cheh says that’s not enough.
“It’s asking whether somebody who is a complete stranger to our community to our nation and managed to remain residence for 30 days could actually vote in our elections,” Cheh said, during Tuesday’s Council meeting.
Other voters echoed Cheh’s sentiments. Bret Strogen is not opposed to non-citizens voting in local elections but believes they should spend more time in the District.
“If they’re contributing taxes and they’re part of the community, I’m open-minded to the idea,” Storgen said. “But 30 days seems a little too brief to have influence over elected officials says.”
The bill passed the first vote on Tuesday with all but one councilmembers voting no. But there are still many steps that need to be taken before this bill can be implemented.