Immigrants In Maine Could Soon Be Voting In City Elections
In Portland, Maine residents will decide whether to support the initiative to allow legal immigrants who are not U.S. citizens the ability to vote in Portland City elections.
Will Everitt of the Maine League of Young Voters states, ‘They’re sending their kids to our schools, and they should be able to have a right to vote for say, the school committee.’
‘Legal immigrants are an important part of our community,’ Everitt says. ‘They contribute a lot.’
In this city of 65,000 about 10,000 are legal non-citizen immigrants. Supporters of the initiative believe allowing immigrants to vote would bring them better opportunity to be a part of the city’s civic life. While these immigrants have worked and paid taxes for many years, they have no say in how Portland city government spends their tax dollars.
‘I had no say whatsoever,’ said Alfred Jacob, a Sudanese immigrant who legally lived in Portland for over 8 1/2 years. “I was not part of the process at all.’
While many are happy to sign petitions in favor of the ballot initiative, many are not so willing.
‘It devalues democracy,’ says resident Bob Dane. ‘And in a way, it’s watering down the very thing immigrants want the most, and that is the gift of American citizenship.’
Opponents to the bill believe ‘handing out instantaneous voting rights,’ is implying that immigrants have no reason to become citizens. So it will ultimately do little to make them a part of the community.
‘I think this is all about democracy,’ says Everitt. ‘This is about diversity and I think diversity equals democracy.’