A panel of the D.C. City Council has approved a bill that would allow legal immigrants to vote in D.C. elections.
The Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2022, which unanimously passed the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety on Tuesday, would allow all noncitizen permanent residents to vote in local elections.
A number of towns in Maryland also have laws on the books that allow noncitizens to vote in local elections, and some, such as Takoma Park and Hyattsville, also allow illegal immigrants to vote.
Proponents of the bill say that the large immigrant population in D.C. — one in seven residents is an immigrant — is affected by the policies made by the local government and should therefore have a say in how the city is run.
One of the chief spokesmen for the bill, Council member Charles Allen, likened the non-voting status of foreign citizens to that of D.C. itself, referring to the District’s lack of full congressional representation.
“Allowing our non-citizen neighbors, many of whom have lived and worked in the District for decades, to participate in our elections can only strengthen our democracy and our communities,” the Committee wrote.
The bill itself has been considered in the District for almost a decade, but Tuesday marks the first time it has advanced to a vote before the full legislative body.
Despite the overwhelming support for the bill within the committee, there are opponents who say that voting rights should be reserved for U.S. citizens, including the supporters of an election integrity bill before the U.S. Congress that would bar non-legal citizens from voting in D.C.
The committee also voted to approve measures that would make race, sex or gender irrelevant when calculating damages in injury or wrongful death cases; and to make mail-in voting a permanent aspect of D.C. elections.