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D.C. City Council Committee Approves Bill Allowing Noncitizens to Vote

Lawmakers considered 'racial equity assessment' before passing the measure

A Washington D.C. City Council committee has just advanced a bill that would give non-U.S. citizens the right to vote.

The measure was approved with a 12-1 vote on Oct 4. by the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety.

The “Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2021 (B24-0300)” would amend a 1955 law to allow noncitizen permanent residents to vote in local elections.

According to the bill, noncitizens would be able to vote in an election for mayor, city council, attorney general, State Board of Education, or commissioner.

Should the bill pass, noncitizens will also be able to cast ballots for “any initiative, referendum, recall, or charter referendum on a District ballot.”

The only council member to vote against it was Mary Cheh.

“This bill is eminently supportable, except for one aspect about it,” she said, according to The Hill. “And I asked this question of the committee as a whole: Could someone who took the bus from Texas, or was put on the bus from Texas, or wherever, and dropped off at the vice president’s property, and then remained in the District of Columbia for 30 days and was 18 years old — could that person then vote in our local elections? And the answer was yes.”

The Hill reported she voted against the bill wanting a “longer threshold for residency than the 30-day benchmark.”

After committee members advanced the bill, they issued a report recommending the full city council approve the law, citing — in part — “racial equity.”

“B24-0300 is the next step in the expansion of the franchise. The purpose of the bill is to expand voting rights in local elections to otherwise eligible residents of the District who are not U.S. citizens,” lawmakers wrote in the report.

They also explain that the bill, as introduced, would have only expanded the right to vote to local permanent residents. And that the committee amended the “bill’s provisions to include all non-citizen residents, and it does not distinguish between arbitrary immigration statuses.”

The committee attached a “Racial Equity Impact Assessment” from the Council Office of Racial Equity (CORE) that was a factor in their decision making to approve the new law.

“Bill 24-0300 will likely improve political representation and civic participation for non-citizen residents of color who meet the District’s local election voter eligibility criteria,” the assessment stated. “While CORE is not aware of data that explicitly collects the racial and ethnic identities of non-citizen residents in the District, CORE recognizes that many non-citizen residents may identify as Black, Indigenous, Latinx, of Asian descent, or as another identity of color.”

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