October 26, 2016
City Council hearing on proposed voting rights for non-citizens
City Building, 4310 Gallatin Street
Good evening, Mayor Hollingsworth and members of the City Council.
My name is Shannon Wyss, and i’m a resident of Ward 4. As a 44-year-old citizen of the US, i would like to speak strongly in favor of allowing non-citizens to vote in Hyattsville elections.
All of us, citizens and non-citizens alike, have a deep stake in what happens in our city, and local elections are often the most important ones for our day-to-day lives. Because of that significance, voting is more important to many of us than the other major rights of citizenship: serving on a jury, having a jury trial, and running for office.
In 2014, the US Census Bureau estimated that 35% of the residents of Hyattsville were born outside the US and that a total of 24% are not citizens. So almost one-quarter of us cannot vote. That’s a huge percentage of our neighbors whose voices are not heard at the polls in matters related to council representation, local taxes, parking, who sits in the mayor’s seat, and a host of other issues.
To those who are concerned that people who are not US citizens will be uninformed about how to vote, what democracy means, or the nuances of the issues of the day, let me assure you that non-citizens can be just as informed, if not more informed, than citizens. And since we don’t have a requirement regarding citizens being knowledgeable before they cast a vote, i don’t see why we should put in place a special requirement for non-citizens.
I’m often proud to state that I live in Hyattsville, not only because of our diverse, progressive community but because of many of our laws. I hope this charter amendment becomes yet another reason for me to tout how wonderful our city is.
I want all of my neighbors who are 16 or older to be able to have a voice in local elections. So i strongly urge members of the Council and the Mayor to support the franchise for non-citizens in city elections.
Thank you for your time.