A small Maryland city depicted national attention the coming week for permitting non-citizens including illegal immigrants to cast ballots in local elections- but it’s merely the most recent municipality to do so, in a trend that has some worried the changing definition of ‘voter’ could erode what it means to be a citizen.
“It’s a slippery slope, ” said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform( FAIR ).
College Park, which approved the policy Tuesday, became the 11 th municipality in Maryland alone to allow non-citizens to vote in local races.
Supporters cast the change as an important step.
“To me, expanding access to the right to vote in our city is something that expands our community voice , not something that contracts it, ” Mayor Patrick Wojahn said, according to the Washington Post .
College Park Councilmember Fazlul Kabir tried to rein in the measure. He said he introduced two amendments–one, to lag the vote to give the council more time to speak with constituents, and another to only allow green-card holders to participate in local government elections. Both amendments were struck down.
Kabir said he did not vote at all.
“My problem was about the procedure. I think we went too fast, and didn’t give our residents a chance to speak–that was my annoyance, ” Kabir told Fox News on Friday. “It is a very heavy subject and we have to be very careful.”
Kabir told Fox News that he watches both “good things” and “risk” in allowing non-citizens to vote.
“The good thing is that it gives more residents the chance to stimulate elected people most responsible, more accountable, ” Kabir said. “But health risks is that this could be a slippery slope–other cities can do this, and the change could percolate down beyond College Park to districts and countries, and it could even become a national issue. That’s the risk I was feeling.”
Wojhan did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
The practice already goes well beyond College Park.
Apart from a couple townships that allowed the practice beforehand, the liberal enclave of Takoma Park kicked off the trend in Maryland back in 1992 when it began to allow non-citizens to vote in mayoral and city council elections. Several other cities and townships followed.
Where it’s allowed , non-citizen voting only applies to local races–non-citizens cannot vote in federal elections.
San Francisco also plans to allow non-citizens to vote in local board of education races beginning in 2018. In Massachusetts, both Amherst and Cambridge have moved to introduce non-citizen voting and are awaiting approval, according to the Massachusetts State House News Service.
For the past few years, New York City has weighed whether to allow non-citizens to participate in city elections.
But adversaries like Mehlman, whose group advocates for lower immigration levels, call the shifting an “assault on the whole concept of citizenship and what it means.”
“If anybody who simply strays in has the same right–and an equal right–on how this country is running, then, essentially, the whole idea of the nation becomes meaningless, ” he said.
And Jessica Vaughan, director of policy analyzes for the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, called it “one more form of corrosion of the meaning of American citizenship.”
“Politicians should not dilute the vote of citizens by allowing those who have no claim to this privilege, and whose interests might conflict with the interests of citizens, to vote, ” Vaughan told Fox News in an email. “Besides, procuring the right to vote is something that encourages legal immigrants to become citizens, which is beneficial to our country.”
“It’s political pandering of the worst kind, ” she said.
Brooke Singman is a Politics Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.
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