Non-Citizens Voting? Boston City Council Wants It To Happen For City Elections

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The Boston City Council voted 8-4 in favor of a proposal that would allow non-citizens of the United States to vote in its city elections on Wednesday.

Lame duck progressive city councilor Kendra Lara last month introduced the measure, which would allow foreigners who live in the city legally to vote in Boston municipal elections.

Lara said during the meeting that her father is a legal U.S. resident, but not a citizen, so he could not vote for her in 2021 or this year.

“His story is the story of thousands of legal residents in the city of Boston, who work, pay taxes, raise their children, and participate in every way in strengthening the fabric of our city, yet cannot cast their ballot for the representatives who are making decisions about their daily lives,” Lara said during the city council meeting Wednesday, December 13.

Other than Lara, Gabriela Coletta, Ricardo Arroyo, Liz Breadon, Sharon Durkan, Ruthzee Louijeune, Julia Mejia, and Brian Worrell supported the measure, while Frank Baker, Michael Flaherty, Ed Flynn, and Erin Murphy voted against it. Tania Fernandes Anderson, a progressive, did not attend the meeting and therefore did not vote on the measure.

Flaherty, who opposed the measure, said that he worried it may result in non-citizens illegally voting in state and federal elections.

“Those unintended consequences are that they may mistakenly register to vote and/or vote in federal or state elections, which would seriously jeopardize their opportunity to become a legal citizen,” Flaherty said during the meeting.

“I don’t know of anything more devastating than that, and, for me, that’s just too great a risk to take at this point,” he later added.

If Mayor Michelle Wu were to sign the measure, 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 would 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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