College Park, Maryland, home of the University of Maryland, voted this week to extend the vote to "non-citizens," thus allowing illegal immigrants who live in College Park to cast a ballot in local elections.
The measure also applies to green card holders, students at the University on student visas, and other non-citizens. It's the sixth measure of its kind to pass in the U.S.
The city council reached a decision on the measure this week, but the vote was originally planned for last month. After a brief public comment period — in which nearly every speaker opposed the measure — the council voted 4-3 to expand voting privileges.
As might be expected, the measure was rather contentious, particularly among College Park residents who aren't affiliated with the University. Several arguments broke out in the comment period, and at least one resident was called a "Nazi" for opposing the measure. University of Maryland students, of course, spoke out in favor of expansion, telling the Council that they supported the measure because it would allow more University students and faculty, who have a "variety of immigration statues," to be a "voice in the community."
The mayor and council may not necessarily have the support of College Park going forward. Mayor Patrick Wojahn told The Washington Post that at the August council meeting, most residents submitted commentary in opposition to expanding voting rights, but in the month between meetings, the response shifted in favor.
He neglected to mention that in the month between meetings, several organizations mobilized within College Park and at the University to sway city council members, and students returning to college were aggressive in pressuring local politicians to support the bill.
Residents in opposition say they'll work to put a referendum on the ballot in November, allowing the more permanent denizens of College Park to decide, rather than the city council, whether non-citizens should get a vote in community elections. Obviously, this is unacceptable to local activists, who say, somewhat confusingly, that people who can't vote should have a say in whether they should be able to vote.
Better to have the policy dictated from on high, apparently.