Article II, Section 1 of the Maine constitution requires that one must be a citizen to vote in state elections; it makes no mention of local elections. Title 21-A, Section 111 of Maine law is clearer; it says that a “person must be a citizen of the United States” to “vote in any election in a municipality.” When the Charter Commission examined this idea back in 2010, local counsel estimated that it would more than likely fail to withstand legal scrutiny from the courts. Yet the members of the city’s Charter Commission are now moving forward anyway, testing the limits of the city’s home-rule authority.
It seems so basic that I chuckle having to write it, but the right to vote should be reserved for citizens. Every vote cast in an election by a noncitizen dilutes the vote of a citizen. Allowing noncitizens to vote in Portland elections would undermine the security of those elections. And without an accurate count of how many noncitizens reside within city limits, there can be no confidence among citizens in the outcomes of those elections.
The idea seems a particular affront to those Portlanders who came to the U.S. and went through the legal process to earn citizenship and the right to vote. It would also undoubtedly discourage other noncitizens who reside in Portland from seeking to become citizens, since it would hand them the voting rights that are perhaps the biggest benefit of citizenship.