Hyattsville has become the first municipality in Prince George’s County to extend voting privileges to non-U.S. citizens, joining six other Maryland cities that passed similar measures years ago.
The 11-member council voted unanimously Monday to allow residents to register if they provide government identification and proof of residency, including a sworn affidavit.
Council member Joseph Solomon (Ward 5), who was one of the bill’s sponsors, said that he was inspired by a resident who voiced a concern about the council’s decision in early 2015 to lower the voting age for municipal elections to 16.
“While she viewed our actions as positive, it was a slap in the face to our residents who owned homes and were not citizens but deserved a voice,” Solomon said, recalling the woman’s comments at a community meeting. “She really felt that the council was enabling kids to vote without recognizing there were adults that had been silenced.”
Noncitizens are still barred from running for office and from voting in county, state or federal elections. To register to vote, they must have lived in Hyattsville for at least 30 days.
CASA, an immigrant advocacy organization, estimated that about 15 percent of Hyattsville’s approximately 18,000 residents would be affected by the new law.
The cities of Takoma Park, Barnesville, Garrett Park, Glen Echo, Martin’s Additions and Somerset — all in Montgomery County — also have expanded voting rights to noncitizens.
Mount Rainier, another Prince George’s County municipality, is considering a similar proposal and is likely to vote on it early next year.
Solomon, who is the incoming president of the Prince George’s County Municipal Association, said that he plans to push the issue with other cities as well.
“If you’re in local government, your role is to serve the residents of your city,” Hyattsville Mayor Candace Hollingsworth said. “You can’t be so narrow in your thoughts about who you represent that you completely disregard a group that receives the services and benefits of the work you do.”