Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: January 24, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Grosso, Silverman, Allen, Nadeau, R. White, Evans, and Bonds

Summary: To amend the District of Columbia Election Code of 1955 to expand the definition of "qualified elector" to include permanent residents for the purpose of local elections.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. 

Today, along with Councilmembers Jack Evans, Brianne Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, and Robert White, I am introducing the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2017. 

This bill allows permanent residents in the District of Columbia, who are not yet U.S. citizens, the right to vote in our local municipal elections. These residents are well on their path to citizenship.  This bill will allow them to legally participation in our elections for the Mayor, Council, State Board of Education, ANC’s and the Attorney General.  

“All politics is local” is a common phrase in the U.S. political system.  What most D.C. residents care about are the local issues of city life that affect them day-to-day.  This includes our public schools, paying their taxes, having access to quality health care, crime rates in neighborhoods, and so much more.  All of these issues are important to voters in the District of Columbia but unfortunately, not all of our residents have a say in choosing the officials who make the policy decisions that will directly impact them.  In my opinion, that is unjust.

Since 1970, the District of Columbia has seen a steady increase in the number of foreign-born residents and according to the U.S. Census Bureau report in 2012, 54,000 residents in the District were foreign born, but not naturalized U.S. citizens and this number is growing.  Over 90% of legal permanent residents are 18 years of age or older. These are law-abiding taxpayers and they should have the opportunity to have their voices heard in local elections.

I recognize that this is a very political and polarizing issue further agitated by the incoming Presidential Administration and current Congressional make-up.  I strongly believe that the result of the national election reverberated in our city perhaps more than anywhere else in the nation.

Many are scared and anxious as our future and the future of our laws are at the whim of a Congress where we have no voting representation from our city, and many of its members have never set foot in our diverse neighborhoods. 

For most of American history, noncitizens were permitted to vote in 22 states and federal territories. It was not until the 1920s that, amidst anti-immigrant hysteria, lawmakers began to bar non-citizens from voting in local and statewide elections.  Unfortunately, this hysteria continues across the United States, but it does not need to be perpetuated in the District of Columbia.

The District of Columbia is a leader in how we relate to immigrants and we are a sanctuary city – to me that means we will protect families and communities from being torn apart by immigration policies rooted in fear and bigotry. 

I want to thank my colleagues who for co-introduced this legislation with me and welcome any other co-sponsors at this time.

Thank you.