Activists and leaders in Colmar Manor, Maryland, are pushing to make this small town the next in the state to allow noncitizens to vote in local elections.
The jurisdiction has just over 1,500 residents. Almost half of its population is of Hispanic origin and just under 40% of its inhabitants are foreign-born. The percentage of residents who are noncitizens was not immediately available.
Other cities in Maryland — including several in Prince George’s County — such as College Park, Hyattsville and Mount Rainer have already granted this privilege to noncitizens.
A bill introduced in the Colmar Manor’s city council would have allowed green card holders, temporary protected status beneficiaries and those covered by other programs like DACA, to cast a ballot in local elections, but it excluded undocumented people.
The measure failed Tuesday night after councilmember Marlik Harding voted against it. He told Telemundo 44 he rejected it because he believed the right should be granted to all residents, including those without legal status.
The issue has sparked a bit of controversy in the town. Mayor Sadara Barrow said she backs the proposal presented in the council but noted there are people in the community who do not support granting the right to vote to those who are in the country without authorization.
“There is an audience that you’re not hearing from, and we are,” she said. “This is not personal; I’m trying to serve something for everyone that I’m hearing from in terms of how we can move forward.”
Advocates of including undocumented residents in the legislation argue that similar measures have worked well in other parts of the state.
“What we want is for all residents of Colmar Manor to be able to vote in local elections. We are not a big town. It’s 1,588 people, 450 houses,” resident and mayoral candidate Monica Casanas said. “Why aren’t we letting everyone vote? What’s the fear? If they are doing it in Mount Rainer, in Hyattsville, why can’t we do it in this small town?”
The debate is taking place just a few months before the town holds municipal elections. Colmar Manor will choose its mayor on May 3.
“I raise my voice so they pay more attention to us Hispanics because they always put us to the side and I feel like they don’t take us into account,” Sara Campos, who has lived in Colmar Manor for over 11 years, told T44.
Mayor Barrow has proposed the creation of a special task force that would function as a “safe zone” where people can speak honestly about what they think of the issue.
Activists say they’ll keep fighting to extend voting privilege to all residents.
“It’s [a matter of] social justice. It’s about defending others as human beings and people, who deserve the right to choose their local government,” activist Morena Zelaya said.