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Boston City Council considers immigration voting proposal to allow noncitizens to participate in elections

Boston, a self-proclaimed sanctuary city, is considering a resolution that would allow immigrants with “legal status” to vote in local elections. The proposal reportedly has the support of a majority of Boston City Council members and was considered at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. .

City Councilor Kendra Lara introduced the home rule petition, which was discussed during a public hearing Tuesday afternoon among fellow council members, immigrant advocates and city elections officials, the Boston Herald reported.

“There are people who have worked, sacrificed, and invested in their neighborhoods even though they were not given a voice in local government through voting. Everyone has a voice in decisions that affect their daily lives. “We should have one,” Lara said. .

Jesse Carpenter, a city official in Takoma Park, Maryland, reportedly proposed similar policy changes to Boston City Council members that are already in place in much smaller jurisdictions outside the state.

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Boston City Council member Kendra Lara has introduced a bill that would give immigrants the right to vote. (Jonathan Wiggs/Boston Globe via Getty Images)

While Takoma Park celebrated 30 years since non-American residents first voted, the Maryland city’s 1992 initiative gave immigrants “regardless of their legal status,” according to an October press release. They were given the right to vote in local elections. In Takoma Park, “nearly one-third of residents are foreign-born,” according to a press release, and according to the most recent city data from 2017, 72 of Takoma Park’s 347 registered non-citizen voters cast a ballot. It is shown that it accounts for an approximate proportion. 20% of registrants.

The number of immigrants in Boston, with a population of over 650,000, is likely much higher than in Takoma Park, which has more than 17,000 residents.

Carpenter told the Boston City Council on Tuesday that in Takoma Park, immigrants will not be asked about their legal status when registering to vote, but will instead be asked for identification and proof of city residency, the Herald reported. Stated. She says Takoma Park only has “a few hundred” non-citizen voters registered, so she keeps that information in a simple Excel spreadsheet, as shown in a city mail reply to sender. , said the list of people eligible to vote will be updated as non-citizens move. .

Elections Commissioner Eneida Tavares said a similar policy change could be logistically difficult for Boston, which is a much larger city, and said the Boston Elections Department would be able to “make two changes without causing disruption.” “We need to assess whether we have the capacity to maintain separate databases,” he told councilors on Tuesday. ”

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A funding package for temporary migrant shelters passed this week at the Massachusetts State House in Boston, despite Republican opposition to the bill. (Tim Graham/Getty Images)

“Our preferred method is to use the Secretary of State’s database because that’s the only place we can keep everything,” Tavares said. “It makes it easier to vote, update voter information, provide voters with their voter history, and everything in between.”

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Tavares also told council members that the city likely would not be able to keep an individual’s immigration status private if public voting information was requested for court proceedings.

During the meeting, other City Council members expressed concern that non-citizens could be allowed to erroneously vote in state or federal elections if changes to city elections go through. Some say that could jeopardize immigrants’ paths to citizenship. “If they’re on a path to citizenship, we don’t want them to make a mistake that jeopardizes that,” said City Councilwoman Liz Bredon. “Because we’re taking a big all-or-nothing approach.” ”

Boston’s proposal would apply to immigrants with “legal status,” but it’s unclear how Boston’s election officials would vet noncitizen voters.

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President Biden speaks to the media after returning to the White House after a campaign stop in Boston on Tuesday, December 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Martin)

Massachusetts is facing an influx of migrants from its southern border, and Democratic Gov. Maura Healey has declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to help manage the crisis. Over the summer, Boston received a $1.9 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help with shelter and transportation for migrants, the Associated Press reported.

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Meanwhile, Massachusetts House Democrats on Monday announced a $2 million package to provide shelter to vulnerable families, including up to $50 million for overflow sites for homeless families remaining on the state’s waiting list. He pushed a $2.8 billion spending bill that set aside $50 million. The state’s emergency shelters are overwhelmed by the influx of immigrants and homeless families.

Republicans unsuccessfully tried to block a bill allocating funding for immigration, decrying a “one-party monopoly” and insisting the bill warranted formal debate in Congress.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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