When former President James Madison sat down and wrote the United States Constitution and the subsequent amendments were added, protections for American citizens were solidified.
One of those protections is the right to vote, which is mentioned five times throughout the historic document (emphasis added):
- Amendment 14: “But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.”
- Amendment 15: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
- Amendment 19: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
- Amendment 24: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax.”
- Amendment 26: “The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.”
While Maryland still sides with the Founding Fathers when it comes to voting for president, senator, congressman, and governor, officials in College Park aren’t sure the citizen restriction should apply to local elections.
The Baltimore Sun reported that the city known best for its University of Maryland campus is considering a charter amendment that would allow noncitizens to cast ballots for mayor and city council.
The proposal has already been approved by other Maryland cities, and supporters of the measure claim that local elections, which are focused on trash collection, snow removal, and other municipal services, affect residents regardless of citizenship.
“These are folks who have a significant stake in our community, and who rely on the facilities in our city,” College Park City Councilwoman Christine Nagle, who is sponsoring the measure, told The Baltimore Sun. “To me, it just made sense.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), who previously was a constitutional law professor at American University, noted to The Baltimore Sun that although the amendments clarify only citizens can vote, the original document did not.
“When the nation began, there was no national definition of voting rights,” Raskin said. “It was completely up to the states, and what mattered was the property-ownership qualification, the race qualification and the gender qualification.”
Not everyone is on board with the new measure, though. Councilwoman Mary C. Cook told the news outlet that she will hear the opinion of her constituents before making a decision but, on a personal level, said she does not agree with the measure.
The proposal isn’t just about undocumented immigrants because it would also change the ability for green card holders to vote. Jeff Werner, an advocate for tighter immigration restrictions, believes anyone in the country legally should certainly have a voice in their community, but that voice doesn’t extend to the voting booth.
While the United States Constitution grants citizens the right to vote, in terms of noncitizens, Werner asked, “What gives them that privilege?”
According to The Washington Free Beacon, Takoma Park has allowed noncitizens to vote since 1991, and The Baltimore Sun reported that Maryland’s Constitution allows local governments more ability to organize their elections.