The Washington, D.C. city council voted 12-1 to advance a bill that if passed and signed into law would allow noncitizens to vote in local elections.
The bill, introduced by council member Charles Allen, says that if a noncitizen is otherwise qualified to vote, they can do so in local elections so long as they have resided in Washington, D.C., for at least 30 days.
‘This bill is in line with our D.C. values and this council’s history of expanding the right to vote and welcoming new voices into our political process and government,’ Allen said before the vote at Tuesday’s legislative session. ‘Our immigrant neighbors of all statuses participate, contribute and care about our community in our city. They, like all DC residents, deserve a right to have a say in their government. They raise families here, contribute to their community. They run businesses that people depend on, and they pay taxes that we decide how to spend. Yet they have no ability to elect the local leaders who make decisions about their bodies, their businesses and their tax dollars.’
Allen went on to say that D.C. already allows those who do not pay taxes to vote, those without a fixed residence, those who are incarcerated, college students who hail from ‘far-away states,’ and those who cannot read to vote.
‘Why? Because we believe that all those voices deserve to have a vote in our democracy, and that we are actually better for them,’ he said.
The only vote against the bill was from council member Mary Cheh, who said her only problem with the bill is that the time period is too short for her liking, given that migrants have been arriving via bus from places like Texas, dropped off at locations in D.C. like near Vice President Harris’s home.
‘This bill is eminently supportable, except for one aspect about it. And I asked this question of the committee as a whole,’ Cheh said, ‘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 resident 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.’
Cheh said her concern was not about immigration status but ‘whether somebody who’s a complete stranger to our community, to our nation, and who happened to be sent here on a bus from Texas and managed to remain resident for 30 days could actually vote in our elections.’ She said that there should be ‘something more than 30 days,’ noting that the bill originally called for permanent residency. She said she would agree to even 60 days, arguing that the current 30-day period is ‘too flimsy.’
New York City had passed a similar bill that also had a 30-day requirement in December 2021. That bill quickly faced a legal challenge, and in June a New York judge ruled that it was illegal, violating the state’s constitution.