Portland weighs letting noncitizens vote

PORTLAND (AP) — Like his neighbors, Claude Rwaganje pays taxes on his income and taxes on his cars. His children have gone to Portland's public schools. He's interested in the workings of Maine's largest city, which he has called home for 13 years.

Claude Rwaganje
Pat Wellenbach/Associated Press

Claude Rwaganje, a resident of Portland for over 13 years, speaks at a news conference on Tuesday. Portland residents will vote in November on a proposal that would give legal residents who are not U.S. citizens the right to vote in local elections.

There's one vital difference, though: Rwaganje isn't a U.S. citizen and isn't allowed to vote on those taxes or on school issues. That may soon change.

Portland residents will vote Nov. 2 on a proposal to give legal residents who are not U.S. citizens the right to vote in local elections, joining places like San Francisco and Chicago that have already loosened the rules or are considering it.

Noncitizens hold down jobs, pay taxes, own businesses, volunteer in the community and serve in the military, and it's only fair they be allowed to vote, Rwaganje said.

"We have immigrants who are playing key roles in different issues of this country, but they don't get the right to vote," said Rwaganje, 40, who moved to the U.S. because of political strife in his native Congo and runs a nonprofit that offers financial advice to immigrants.

Opponents of the measure say immigrants already have an avenue to cast ballots — by becoming citizens. Allowing noncitizens to vote dilutes the meaning of citizenship, they say, adding that it could lead to fraud and unfairly sway elections.

"My primary objection is I don't think it is right, I don't think it is just, I don't think it is fair," Portland resident Barbara Campbell Harvey said.

In San Francisco, a ballot question Nov. 2 will ask voters whether they want to allow noncitizens to vote in school board elections if they are the parents, legal guardians or caregivers of children in the school system.

Noncitizens are allowed to vote in school board elections in Chicago and in municipal elections in half a dozen towns in Maryland, said Ron Hayduk, a professor at the City University of New York and author of "Democracy for All: Restoring Immigrant Voting Rights in the United States."

New York City allowed noncitizens to vote in community school board elections until 2003, when the school board system was reorganized, and several municipalities in Massachusetts have approved allowing it but don't yet have the required approval from the Legislature, he said.

The Maine ballot questions asks whether legal immigrants who are city residents but not U.S. citizens should be allowed to vote in municipal elections. If the measure passes, noncitizens would be able to cast ballots in school board, city council and school budget elections, as well as other local issues, but not on federal or statewide matters.

The Maine League of Young Voters, which spearheaded the drive to force the question on the ballot, estimates there are 5,000 to 7,500 immigrants in Portland, roughly half of whom are not U.S. citizens. They come from more than 100 countries, with the two largest groups from Somalia and Latin America.

On a recent day in a small lunchroom at the Al-Amin Halal Market, a group of Somali men ate lunch and talked in their native language. A sign advertised the day's offerings, including hilib ari (goat), bariis (rice) and baasto (spaghetti).

Abdirizak Daud, 40, moved to Minneapolis 18 years ago before coming to Portland in 2006. He hasn't been able to find a job. Some of his nine children have attended Portland schools, and he'd like to have a say in who's looking over the school system and the city, he said.

But between his limited English and the financial demands, Daud hasn't been able to become a citizen.

"I like the Democrats. I want to vote for Democrats, but I don't have citizenship," he said.

To become a citizen, immigrants must be a lawful permanent resident for at least five years, pass tests on English and U.S. history and government, and swear allegiance to the United States.

Supporters of Portland's ballot measure say the process is cumbersome, time-consuming and costly. The filing fee and fingerprinting costs alone are $675, and many immigrants spend hundreds of dollars more on English and civics classes and for a lawyer to help them through the process.

Allowing noncitizens to vote fits with basic democratic principles, Hayduk said.

Historically, 40 states allowed noncitizens to vote going back to 1776, but an anti-immigrant backlash in the late 1800s and early 1900s resulted in laws that eliminated their voting rights by 1926, Hayduk said.

"We look back in history and we say that was a bad thing that we didn't allow African-Americans to vote, or we didn't allow half the population, women, to vote, or we didn't allow younger people to vote," he said. "We've modified our election laws to become more inclusive to incorporate more members of society."

The Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington, D.C., group that advocates tougher immigration enforcement, says voting is a privilege and should be limited to citizens.

"People who are legal immigrants to the United States after a five-year waiting period can become citizens and become enfranchised," spokesman Ira Mehlman said. "But until then, being here as a legal immigrant is a conditional agreement, sort of like a trial period. You have to demonstrate you are the type of person we would want to have as a citizen, then you can become a citizen and vote."

PORTLAND (AP) — Like his neighbors, Claude Rwaganje pays taxes on his income and taxes on his cars. His children have gone to Portland's public schools. He's interested in the workings of Maine's largest city, which he has called home for 13 years.

There's one vital difference, though: Rwaganje isn't a U.S. citizen and isn't allowed to vote on those taxes or on school issues. That may soon change.

Portland residents will vote Nov. 2 on a proposal to give legal residents who are not U.S. citizens the right to vote in local elections, joining places like San Francisco and Chicago that have already loosened the rules or are considering it.

Noncitizens hold down jobs, pay taxes, own businesses, volunteer in the community and serve in the military, and it's only fair they be allowed to vote, Rwaganje said.

"We have immigrants who are playing key roles in different issues of this country, but they don't get the right to vote," said Rwaganje, 40, who moved to the U.S. because of political strife in his native Congo and runs a nonprofit that offers financial advice to immigrants.

Opponents of the measure say immigrants already have an avenue to cast ballots — by becoming citizens. Allowing noncitizens to vote dilutes the meaning of citizenship, they say, adding that it could lead to fraud and unfairly sway elections.

"My primary objection is I don't think it is right, I don't think it is just, I don't think it is fair," Portland resident Barbara Campbell Harvey said.

In San Francisco, a ballot question Nov. 2 will ask voters whether they want to allow noncitizens to vote in school board elections if they are the parents, legal guardians or caregivers of children in the school system.

Noncitizens are allowed to vote in school board elections in Chicago and in municipal elections in half a dozen towns in Maryland, said Ron Hayduk, a professor at the City University of New York and author of "Democracy for All: Restoring Immigrant Voting Rights in the United States."

New York City allowed noncitizens to vote in community school board elections until 2003, when the school board system was reorganized, and several municipalities in Massachusetts have approved allowing it but don't yet have the required approval from the Legislature, he said.

The Maine ballot questions asks whether legal immigrants who are city residents but not U.S. citizens should be allowed to vote in municipal elections. If the measure passes, noncitizens would be able to cast ballots in school board, city council and school budget elections, as well as other local issues, but not on federal or statewide matters.

The Maine League of Young Voters, which spearheaded the drive to force the question on the ballot, estimates there are 5,000 to 7,500 immigrants in Portland, roughly half of whom are not U.S. citizens. They come from more than 100 countries, with the two largest groups from Somalia and Latin America.

On a recent day in a small lunchroom at the Al-Amin Halal Market, a group of Somali men ate lunch and talked in their native language. A sign advertised the day's offerings, including hilib ari (goat), bariis (rice) and baasto (spaghetti).

Abdirizak Daud, 40, moved to Minneapolis 18 years ago before coming to Portland in 2006. He hasn't been able to find a job. Some of his nine children have attended Portland schools, and he'd like to have a say in who's looking over the school system and the city, he said.

But between his limited English and the financial demands, Daud hasn't been able to become a citizen.

"I like the Democrats. I want to vote for Democrats, but I don't have citizenship," he said.

To become a citizen, immigrants must be a lawful permanent resident for at least five years, pass tests on English and U.S. history and government, and swear allegiance to the United States.

Supporters of Portland's ballot measure say the process is cumbersome, time-consuming and costly. The filing fee and fingerprinting costs alone are $675, and many immigrants spend hundreds of dollars more on English and civics classes and for a lawyer to help them through the process.

Allowing noncitizens to vote fits with basic democratic principles, Hayduk said.

Historically, 40 states allowed noncitizens to vote going back to 1776, but an anti-immigrant backlash in the late 1800s and early 1900s resulted in laws that eliminated their voting rights by 1926, Hayduk said.

"We look back in history and we say that was a bad thing that we didn't allow African-Americans to vote, or we didn't allow half the population, women, to vote, or we didn't allow younger people to vote," he said. "We've modified our election laws to become more inclusive to incorporate more members of society."

The Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington, D.C., group that advocates tougher immigration enforcement, says voting is a privilege and should be limited to citizens.

"People who are legal immigrants to the United States after a five-year waiting period can become citizens and become enfranchised," spokesman Ira Mehlman said. "But until then, being here as a legal immigrant is a conditional agreement, sort of like a trial period. You have to demonstrate you are the type of person we would want to have as a citizen, then you can become a citizen and vote."

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Comments

 's picture

Its pretty simple!!!

There is a reason these laws are written... To allow the possability for non citizens to vote in any election is to allow the possability that non citizens will flock to that municipality from across the country and subsequently have the majority in a vote.. Do we want to give our city away to non citizens? This should not be allowed to go forward since it is against our states constitution.. The constitution is there for a reason and intended to protect our sovreignty.. If the voters allow this it will be the first step in the takover of our state by non citizens...

Title 21-A: ELECTIONS
Chapter 3: VOTER REGISTRATION
Subchapter 2: VOTER ELIGIBILITY
§111. General qualifications
A person who meets the following requirements may vote in any election in a municipality, including a biennial municipal caucus held pursuant to section 311. [2005, c. 387, §1 (AMD).]

1. Citizenship. The person must be a citizen of the United States.
[ 2005, c. 387, §1 (AMD) .]
2. Age. The person must be at least 18 years of age, except that, to vote in a political party's primary election or municipal caucus, the person must be at least 18 years of age as of the date of the next general election.
[ 2005, c. 387, §1 (AMD) .]
3. Residence. The person must have established and maintain a voting residence in that municipality.
[ 2005, c. 387, §1 (AMD) .]
4. Registration. The person must be registered to vote in that municipality.
[ 2005, c. 387, §1 (AMD) .]
5. Enrollment. The person must be enrolled in a party in that municipality to vote at that party's caucus, convention or primary election, unless otherwise permitted by the party pursuant to section 340.
[ 2005, c. 387, §1 (AMD) .]
SECTION HISTORY
1985, c. 161, §6 (NEW). 1987, c. 188, §1 (AMD). 1987, c. 423, §2 (AMD). 2005, c. 387, §1 (AMD).

Imagine the day when this gets passed. The legal immigrants will flock to our city. They will take the next step in trying to amend numerous parts of our constitution that benefit them, thus creating thier own majority in every municipal election.
A vote in favor of this is (in my oppinion) an act of treason and an act of agggression against our sovereignty.

trea·son? ?/?triz?n/ Show Spelled
[tree-zuhn] Show IPA

–noun
1. the offense of acting to overthrow one's government or to harm or kill its sovereign.
2. a violation of allegiance to one's sovereign or to one's state.
3. the betrayal of a trust or confidence; breach of faith; treachery.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

If this passes, the parrot

If this passes, the parrot vote won't be too far behind. 0O:-)

Ed Enos's picture

There are so many things

There are so many things wrong with this proposal: among them: 1) besides being in the US without any attempt to become a citizen, what does that say about the desire to the betterment of the country. 2) how will this be managed at the polls? I can foresee rampant fraud possibilities, regardless of the efforts of poll workers.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Great post, Gil...

Great post, Gil...

Dan Moody's picture

VOTE

It is to bad that if everyone that could vote would only get out and DO IT . I am not saying that non citizens should be able to . SO EVERYONE GET OUT AND VOTE that can............. and get off your asses .......... You read after a elections that only 20% - 30% got out and did it a crying shame ...

 's picture

HELL

HELL NO

 's picture

What the liberal socialist

What the liberal socialist left is doing to this country is a shame. They fail to realize that there is a difference between acceptance and diversity and stupidity and incompetence. We really need to replace these Democrats with..............................ANYONE regardless of party affiliation with Common Sense.

Douglas Mac antSaior's picture

May I add that when this land

May I add that when this land was being punished and oppressed, it was her citizens who stood and fought to change their fates, not tuck tail and run. I might have an ounce of respect had you stayed in your own country and fought for change.

 's picture

Many thanks to ye and the

Many thanks to ye and the parrot!

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Don't be too quick to praise

Don't be too quick to praise the parrot, Mac. He's in favor of the non-citizen vote. In, fact he thinks parrots should be allowed to vote. Can you believe it?

Douglas Mac antSaior's picture

You must have posted while I

You must have posted while I was typing.

Douglas Mac antSaior's picture

Abdirizak Daud, 40, moved to

Abdirizak Daud, 40, moved to Minneapolis 18 years ago before coming to Portland in 2006. He hasn't been able to find a job. Some of his nine children have attended Portland schools, and he'd like to have a say in who's looking over the school system and the city, he said.
But between his limited English and the financial demands, Daud hasn't been able to become a citizen.
"I like the Democrats. I want to vote for Democrats, but I don't have citizenship," he said

This says it all! He's been here for 18 years, still has yet to master the language, has not attempted to become a citizen, doesn't work, and has nine kids that we all have to support! No wonder he likes the Dems...they're the only ones willing to keep throwing money at his dumb arse. If I moved to Europe, could not find work...in most cases just in order to get a work visa you have to prove that no local can do that job... and expected to be supported, they would show me the way home! Sorry your homeland sucks...kindly don't extend that suck to our country!

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Very well stated, Mac.

Very well stated, Mac.

Bob Stone's picture

Just a matter of time before this comes to L-A

and I will fight it with everything I've got.

Want to vote? Become a citizen. That this is even on the ballot in Portland is bizarre.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The Pirate will join you in

The Pirate will join you in that fight Mr. Stone.

Val Harris's picture

NO rights to vote!

"People who are legal immigrants to the United States after a five-year waiting period can become citizens and become enfranchised," spokesman Ira Mehlman said. "But until then, being here as a legal immigrant is a conditional agreement, sort of like a trial period. You have to demonstrate you are the type of person we would want to have as a citizen, then you can become a citizen and vote."

Obviously the immigrants that have not become citizens after 13 or 18 years of being here has no intention of doing so. That is not demonstrating the type of person or people we want here. They should have NO right to vote here.

"Supporters of Portland's ballot measure say the process is cumbersome, time-consuming and costly. The filing fee and fingerprinting costs alone are $675, and many immigrants spend hundreds of dollars more on English and civics classes and for a lawyer to help them through the process."

There are challenges, rules, laws and expenses in life. We all have to deal with them in this country. If you don't like it, GO HOME. We citizens should not have to pay your welfare benefits, change our laws, or bow to your every whim and woe because you cried "political strife" in your own country.

Doreen Sheive's picture

citizenship first

I definitely think that immigrants should have to become citizens before they can vote. My goodness, this story is talking about an unemployed man who has been in the United States for 18 years, and yet he cannot speak English. He has nine children who have received education for free. And, evidently, we have been supporting this family all this time. The organizations that brought these people over here are to be commenting on their kindness, however, it seems to me they have an obligation to educate them, find work and get citizenship for them so that these people can become valuable citizens of the United States.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Well stated, 007. I

Well stated, 007. I particularly like the bottom line.

Not a citizen? Too bad.

If you aren't a citizen, you should not have the right to vote in our elections. You want to vote in our elections, become a citizen. Simple enough.
Too bad if it's expensive. There are some things in life that require some time, effort and money. Citizenship in this country is one of them, as it should be.

 's picture

When a society allows the

When a society allows the outcome of its elections to be determined by non-citizens, it is doomed as a society.
Wanto to vote? Become a citizen like 100's of thousands before you have done. Don't want to become a citizen? Then you don't get to vote. Not complicated; why are some trying to make it complicated. Wouldn't be another ploy by the democRATS to unfairly garner more votes, would it?

 's picture

If you want to VOTE Become a

If you want to VOTE Become a US Citizen if you want to be accepted learn the ways of your new home in other words become an AMERICAN !

Margaret Tyler's picture

legal immigrants to vote

my greatgrant parent had to get their citizenship to vote.and it should stay that way.Wegive aid to enough immigrants both legal andnot legal. And i'm sure the Democrats would like there vote as they like to spend our money on ever one but citizens

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