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Should Massachusetts cities and towns be allowed to extend the right to vote in local elections to legal non-citizens?

Gladys Vega
Gladys Vega(handout)

YES

Gladys Vega

Executive director, Chelsea Collaborative, a Latino-led community organization; Chelsea resident

It is my opinion that non-citizens with legal status in the country should have the right to vote in local elections.

In our country’s history, we have encouraged individuals from other countries to migrate to the United States because of its need to expand and grow its economy. That need continues today. Additionally, the United States has a moral obligation to take in refugees due to humanitarian crises around the world caused by natural or man-made causes, in particular when it is partly a result of this country’s foreign policy.

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All of our foreign-born residents in Chelsea care about the same issues as native-born residents. It is only fair to allow non-citizens to vote when they have the same responsibilities as a native-born resident, or more. Like those born here, immigrants all pay taxes, and some are homeowners. Many own businesses and they get involved in the civic life of the community.

I believe the Chelsea City Council should reverse a vote earlier this year and consider the idea of allowing non-citizens to vote in our local elections. Even better, I am hoping our state lawmakers approve a pending bill that would allow all cities and towns to make that decision without needing state approval.

As an advocate and a person who has dedicated my life to working in this low-income immigrant community, I don’t understand the opposition to non-citizen voting today.

When I vote, I don’t do it thinking what’s best for a Puerto Rican, I do it because I have dedicated my life to improving the wellbeing of this community and this country. The same goes for immigrants and refugees who come here from Central and South America. All of us are raised with the same family values. Those values of caring for one another have nothing to do with how or when you came to live in this country.

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I deeply believe in non-citizen voting as a way for immigrants to continue to voice their commitment to this country as a native-born resident would. They should have a voice in what happens in our neighborhoods, our schools, city hall, the state, and the nation’s capital.

Robert Whynott
Robert Whynott(Robert V. Whynott)

NO

Robert Whynott

Former Gloucester city clerk and city councilor; former chair of the Gloucester Republican City Committee.

Having been a political activist as far back as I can remember, voting has always been a sacred event to me. It is the ultimate gift that the Constitution gives a citizen upon reaching the age of 18.

The first election I remember was the 1952 Presidential race. I loved Dwight Eisenhower from the newsreels and proudly wore my little Eisenhower jacket. When he won, I was hooked on politics and have been ever since. I served five terms on the City Council and 17 years as Gloucester City Clerk, retiring in 2009.

During my tenure as city clerk, I ran over 30 elections and registered thousands of new voters. At local football games, sidewalk bazaars, waterfront festivals, and other events, I set up tables to register people who couldn’t make it to City Hall. People that we registered were very excited to become voters. This gift our forefathers gave us, and that our armed forces have preserved for us at great and sometimes ultimate cost, is a goal that non-citizen immigrants should also strive to achieve.

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Allowing non-citizens to vote, even in local elections, is a slippery slope we should avoid. In the past our ancestors, immigrants all, came to America to have a better life for themselves and their children. They worked hard to learn our language and customs, and if they had difficulty, they made sure their children learned and in turn helped them. When an immigrant becomes a citizen, it is a huge family and neighborhood event. When people have to work hard for something, they appreciate it much more.

Let’s keep the right to vote a cherished right for our citizens and a treasured goal for non-citizen immigrants. Similarly, I believe we need to protect the integrity of our voting system. That includes requiring a photo ID in order to vote. You can’t get a fishing license or cash a check without proper identification. We should require no less for voting.

Our nation has long opened its arms to immigrants and should continue to do so, but extending the right to vote to those who have not yet earned citizenship is a step too far.

This is an informal poll, not a scientific survey. Please vote only once.


As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, please contact laidler@globe.com.