Like his neighbors, Claude Rwaganje pays taxes on his income and taxes on his cars. His children have gone to Portland’s public schools. He’s interested in the workings of Maine’s largest city, which he has called home for 13 years.
There’s one vital difference, though: Rwaganje isn’t a U.S. citizen and isn’t allowed to vote on those taxes or on school issues. That may soon change.
Portland residents will vote Nov. 2 on a proposal to give legal residents who are not U.S. citizens the right to vote in local elections, joining places like San Francisco and Chicago that have already loosened the rules or are considering it.
Noncitizens hold down jobs, pay taxes, own businesses, volunteer in the community and serve in the military, and it’s only fair they be allowed to vote, Rwaganje said.
“We have immigrants who are playing key roles in different issues of this country, but they don’t get the right to vote,” said Rwaganje, 40, who moved to the U.S. because of political strife in his native Congo and runs a nonprofit that offers financial advice to immigrants.
Opponents of the measure say immigrants already have an avenue to cast ballots — by becoming citizens. Allowing noncitizens to vote dilutes the meaning of citizenship, they say, adding that it could lead to fraud and unfairly sway elections.
“My primary objection is I don’t think it is right, I don’t think it is just, I don’t think it is fair,” Portland resident Barbara Campbell Harvey said.
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I think that Barbara Campbell is exactly right. Want to vote? Become a citizen and then you’ll be able to.