Boston’s City Council is holding a hearing on Tuesday to consider giving noncitizen legal residents the right to vote in municipal elections. Supporters argue that this would make elections in the city more inclusive.
This new legislation would apply only to noncitizen legal residents, including visa holders, legal permanent residents, anyone with temporary protected status, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients. These immigrants would be allowed to vote only in municipal elections. Noncitizens are still barred from voting in federal elections under federal law.
The hearing was requested in January by City Council President Andrea Campbell. Campbell’s request for the hearing stated, “The purpose of our local government, including the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Advancement, is to ‘strengthen the ability of diverse, cultural, and linguistic communities to play an active role in the economic, civic, social and cultural life of the City of Boston.’”
According to a U.S. Census Bureau survey in 2015, these residents make up 28 percent of Boston’s roughly 673,000 residents. Noncitizen residents of Boston also reportedly paid $116 million in state and local taxes.
The hearing will be at 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
In August 2017, College Park, Maryland, debated a similar measure. That measure ultimately failed. It managed to get a majority vote, but not the supermajority six-out-of-nine council members required for it to become law. Ten municipalities in Maryland currently allow noncitizens the right to vote in local elections.
Other cities across the country have tried similar measures unsuccessfully. In November, San Francisco voters approved a proposition that will allow noncitizen parents and guardians to vote in school board elections. However, this measure is specifically restricted to this subset of noncitizen adults and applies only to the school board elections.
If Boston does pass this proposal, it would be the first city to successfully do so for all citywide elections.