November 19th, 2010
A Trend to Give Non-citizens the Right to Vote

Here’s a trend of note. Brookline, Massachusetts, is the latest in a handful of cities in that state that have approved voting rights for non-citizens.

I remember hearing about the idea several years ago when I worked for the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project. It was mentioned in conversations back then that some cities across the country were contemplating voting rights for green-card holders. It made sense since documented residents, although non-voting, had a stake in local political outcomes.

The news comes from “Brookline Town Meeting approved a petition that would give immigrants with Green Cards the right to vote in local elections, rejecting the recommendation of selectmen and the Advisory Committee to let residents vote on the matter first.”

So it’s not a done thing; the matter will be placed before a community vote, and then the state legislature has to approve it. But if several other cities in Massachusetts have already taken that path, the local Town Meeting should have little to worry about.

It seems right and practical to give green-card holders the right to vote in local elections because matters of public safety and health, which are dealt with at the street level, are the ones that affect their lives in the most direct way.

A couple of things to note about Brookline are that the median income is around $94,000 and 81 percent of the residents have a bachelors degree or higher. The population is almost 80 percent white-non Hispanic, 7.5 percent of the population lives below the poverty level and 13 percent of the school children receive free or reduced price lunch.

We’ll follow how it goes.

[Photo courtesy]

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