Measure to Allow Illegal Immigrants to Vote in Local D.C. Elections Advances

A Washington, D.C., council committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to advance a measure allowing illegal immigrants to vote in local elections.

The Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety approved the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2022 and an amendment to the bill clarifying that the measure applies to both illegal immigrants and those with legal permanent residency.

“We should be welcoming new voices and making voting more accessible to those who are not traditionally represented — not restricting voting to those who have already held power,” the committee wrote in a report accompanying the bill. “The committee believes that expanding the right to vote in our local elections to all non-citizen residents of the District makes a strong statement in support of these D.C. values. 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 measure will now advance to a vote before the full council, according to DCist.

The vote comes amid Republican opposition to the measure; 30 Republicans signed on to a House bill over the summer that would ban the district from allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections.

One in seven D.C. residents is an immigrant, according to the American Immigration Council. Twenty-eight percent of D.C.’s immigrant population is in the country illegally, according to a separate survey by the group.

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen told the outlet that the amendment to allow the bill to also apply to illegal immigrants was based on the public testimony of 50 people in support of the measure. He said the committee has supported the measure because the district understands the effects of disenfranchisement — D.C. residents do not have full voting representation in Congress.

Meanwhile, a judge struck down a similar law in New York City in June, arguing that allowing legal permanent residents to vote in local elections would be in conflict with the state constitution.

The D.C. committee also advanced two other measures on Tuesday: one that would allow voting by mail to become permanent in D.C., and another that would prohibit race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or similar characteristics from being considered when calculating damages in personal injury or wrongful death cases.

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