The League of Young Voters


Why We Need LD 1195
May 6, 2009, 2:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

LD 1195: An Act to Allow Non-Citizen Residents to Vote in Municipal Elections

Maine is a distinctive state for its welcoming culture, and its values for community and inclusivity. Unfortunately for a growing part of Maine’s population, participation excludes the fundamental right of having a voice in our democracy—the right to vote. LD 1195 “An Act to Allow Non-Citizen Residents to Vote in Municipal Elections” would encourage civic engagement and responsibility, and give voice to one of the last disenfranchised segments of the population; to increase government accountability in communities with large immigrant population.

Why We Need LD 1195:

— Resident voting is the next step in expanding democracy. Democracy building is a process of continual evolution. Women and people of color fought hard-won battles for the right to vote. It was just over forty years ago that we extended the franchise to those under 21 years of age. It is time to include immigrants in our democracy.

— Resident voting is not a new right; it is the restoration of an old practice. For the first 150 years of U.S. history, immigrants in America were allowed to vote. It was not until the intense anti-immigrant backlash of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that immigrants lost this critical right. The Revolutionary War statement, ” no taxation without representation” is as relevant today as it was over 200 years ago.

— Resident voting is provided for constitutionally. There is nothing in the U.S. constitution that prevents immigrant residents of Maine from voting in municipal elections.

— Residents already have voting rights in some parts of the United States and in other countries. Immigrant residents have the right to vote in local elections in parts of Maryland, Massachusetts, San Francisco, Chicago, and in countries around the world

— Individuals should have a say in the laws that govern them. Laws apply to everyone in a society. Government services are established for the benefit of the public at large, not individuals. In Maine that public includes up to 64,000 immigrants who live, work, go to school, or pay taxes, and deserve to have a say in the laws that govern them and the programs that they pay for and use.

— We need to close the gap between local government and the people it serves. Many non-profit groups and writers have documented and released reports on the social and economic contributions immigrant make in Maine communities. Extending the right to vote will increase civic and political engagement in Maine and help ensure that elected representatives take the needs of all of their constituents into account.

— The path to citizenship is currently flawed. For many legal non-citizens, this isn’t a matter of “if they will get citizenship”—it’s a matter of when. Becoming a U.S. citizen can take as long as 10 years.

— This bill would strengthen our local control. Municipalities who want to allow its community members to vote should be able to instead of letting our Federal and state control who makes decisions.

— Non-citizens are held to the same obligations to serve our country as those who are citizens. They are required to register for the selective service (or the draft). If we lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 because we wanted to extend that right to an age group because we believe in accountability, we should make those rights at least available on a local level.

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