A small order on the Feb. 25 Council agenda likely didn’t attract a lot of attention at the regular meeting, but Council President Damali Vidot said she had hoped it could have sparked a conversation.
That measure, which she introduced, revolved around looking at the possibility of allowing non-citizens that are here legally to vote in municipal elections.
Instead, she said, she was greeted with silence – and a ‘no’ vote.
“We have people invested in our community, who own homes, have kids in the schools and own businesses, but because they are citizens, they can’t vote in our elections,” she said. “Why not have a conversation about allowing them to vote? The fact my colleagues didn’t want to at least have a conversation is a travesty.”
The roll call consisted of a 5-6 defeated vote, with Vidot and Councillors Judith Garcia, Yamir Rodriguez, Enio Lopez and Giovanni Recupero agreeing to begin talking about it.
Those voting against were Councillor Roy Avellaneda, Calvin Brown, Joe Perlatonda, Luis Tejada, Leo Robinson and Bob Bishop.
Vidot said she fully intends to bring the matter back in 90 days.
“I don’t understand why we couldn’t entertain this, to allow people to be part of the civic process,” she said. “At the minimum, I thought we could have a conversation. If I had known there would be this reaction from my colleagues, I would have organized before. I have every intention of bringing it back again in 90 days. We can’t be in the habit of saying ‘no’ without talking about it.”
Other cities in Massachusetts have voted to allow non-citizens to vote, including Cambridge and Brookline. Such a petition by the Council would require a home rule petition by the State Legislature. It would also require legislative action by the State House as well.
The measure in Chelsea would not allow non-citizens to vote in state or federal elections.