Boston Proposal Would Allow Non-Citizens To Vote In City Elections

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Progressive Boston city councilor Kendra Lara and some of her Democratic colleagues want to allow non-citizens of the United States to vote in the city’s elections.

She introduced a measure at Wednesday’s meeting that would allow foreigners who live in the city legally to vote in Boston municipal elections.

“Though immigrants, particularly those with legal status, pay taxes and contribute to Boston’s economy, they are not able to participate in the electoral process, in what I believe is a violation of one of our foundational American principles,” Lara said during the meeting Wednesday, November 15. “By moving this home rule petition forward, Boston can begin the process of making good on our promise to build a city that is for everyone.”

While Lara is the measure’s main sponsor, seven of the 12 councilors are listed as sponsors. They are:  Lara, Ricardo Arroyo, Liz Breadon, Gabriela Coletta, Sharon Durkan, Ruthzee Louijeune, and Brian Worrell.

Arroyo was also among those who publicly expressed support for the measure.

“It’s not a new idea,” Arroyo said during the meeting. “It’s important, I think, to give a voice to folks locally, who are providing and are subject to all manner of municipal decisions.”

If the city council were to pass this bill and Mayor Michelle Wu were to sign it into law, a state legislator representing Boston would then file a home rule petition bill in the Massachusetts legislature. If both legislative chambers passed the bill and Governor Maura Healey signed it into law, then Boston could allow non-citizens to vote in city elections.

If this measure were to become law, Massachusetts would not have the first communities in New England to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections. The town of Montpelier, Vermont (that state’s capital) allowed non-citizens to vote in its municipal election this year, according to VTDigger.

There already is a bill (S.415) in the Massachusetts legislature that, if passed, would allow municipalities to grant voting rights in municipal elections to non-citizens who have legal status to be in the country. State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) filed the bill, which has been referred to the Joint Committee on Election Laws.


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