College Park vote on noncitizen voting rights was insufficient, city says

It turns out that the city of College Park did not have enough votes after all to grant voting rights to noncitizens, officials said Saturday.

The College Park City Council voted 4-3 with one member abstaining Tuesday night on an amendment to the city’s charter that would allow noncitizens to vote in municipal elections. But charter amendments need six votes of the eight-member council, the city announced Saturday.

That rule was changed in June, and the mayor and council members said they neglected to note that they needed six votes.

“We each accept our responsibility for not realizing the impact of the June charter amendment on Council procedures and we apologize to our residents,” the mayor and council said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear whether the council would reconsider the idea of allowing noncitizens to vote. It plans to discuss the matter at its next work session on Tuesday.

The issue has spurred passionate debate since it was introduced in June, and Tuesday’s vote occurred during a tense meeting. Residents who supported the change said it was about civil rights. Those who opposed it said voting is a privilege that immigrants should earn with citizenship.

Had the change been legally approved, College Park would have become the 10th and largest municipality in Maryland to allow noncitizens to vote in local elections.

One of the first to allow noncitizen voting was Takoma Park, a liberal Montgomery County community that approved the measure during a referendum vote in 1991. The neighboring community of Hyattsville approved a similar measure last year.

Had the measure been approved, the College Park city clerk would have created a supplemental voter list that would include noncitizens who meet other qualifications to vote in the city, such as being 18 years old and not being registered to vote elsewhere. The changes would have gone into effect for the next round of city elections in 2019.

Federal law only prohibits noncitizens from voting in federal elections, according to the city. It does not prohibit cities or states from allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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