Much like in the rest of the country, voting in local D.C. elections is limited to U.S. citizens.
Voting and jury duty are two hallmarks of U.S. citizenship, but one D.C. legislator wants to extend at least one of those to non-citizens.
Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) today introduced a bill that would allow legal residents who are not U.S. citizens to vote in municipal elections, provided they've lived in D.C. for 30 days prior to the election.
During the Council's legislative session, Grosso said that the measure would allow the city's growing population of non-citizens to weigh in on local issues that affect them.
"Pot holes, community centers, playgrounds, minimum wage, taxes, Supercans, snow removal, alley closings, alcohol license moratoriums, red light cameras— these are all important issues that voters in the District of Columbia entrust their leaders with. And unfortunately, not all of our residents have say in choosing the individuals who make these decisions. In my opinion, that is unjust," he said.
According to the U.S. Census, in 2012 some 54,000 D.C. residents — roughly eight percent of the city's population — were foreign born but not yet naturalized U.S. citizens. Ninety percent of those were over the legal voting age of 18.
In 1992, residents of Takoma Park, Md. voted in a referendum to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections. The proposal passed narrowly, 1,199 to 1,107, and allows even undocumented immigrants to vote, provided they have lived in the city for 21 days preceding an election.
Six other locations — three towns, three villages — in Montgomery County allow the same. In 2004, Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) introduced a bill to the same effect in D.C., but it was rejected. Last May, legislators in New York considered a bill of their own that would allow non-citizen legal residents to cast ballots.
Opponents of the idea — which in New York included Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Jr. — say that voting is a sacred enough practice that it should be limited to U.S. citizens.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray recently signed a bill allowing undocumented immigrants to gain special driver's licenses. D.C. has also limited its cooperation with federal immigration authorities, limiting the time it holds immigrants wanted for deportation proceedings.
Disclosure: This reporter is a Green Card holder and D.C. resident.