A group of young adults and high school students are calling on members of the City Council to insert a provision into the revised City Charter that would allow for certain non-citizens to be able to vote in municipal elections.
Led by Manuel Teshe, the former Chelsea High graduate known a few years ago for fighting to get graduation outdoors at the Stadium, the group of young people said they had petitioned the Charter Review Commission to include the voting provision in its recommendations.
The Commission did not agree to do that, and after more than one year of work on the Charter Review, submitted their recommendations Monday night to the City Council for review. Those recommendations will be reviewed at length by the Council in a Committee on Conference, and the Council can adopt the recommendations and it can also add to them.
The Charter is reviewed every 10 years, so making such a fundamental change would be now or never.
Teshe, Chelsea High students Richard Flores and Jazmin Jovel appeared during the Council’s Public Speaking portion on Monday night to advocate for the insertion. They said they would ask that the Council seriously consider allowing those with Permanent Resident cards (Green Cards), those on visas and those with work permits the right to vote in Chelsea municipal elections.
“I’m here to ask you to take this seriously,” said Teshe. “We are talking about a Civil Rights issue. We are talking about a voting rights issue…It goes like this, I don’t care if you’ve spent 20, 30, 40 or 50 years in this community, if you were not born here, you cannot vote here…You can spend your entire life here and if you weren’t born on this side of the border, you can’t vote.
“Non-citizens will get the right to vote in this City and our neighboring cities soon,” he continued. “The question is only a matter of time. Join me on the right side of history with this issue.”
Teshe added that many rebut the argument by saying people should get their citizenship. He said he did just that, and it is a time-consuming and expensive process that not everyone can embark on.
Said Jovel, “Many of the essential workers that keep this city so orderly do not get a chance to say what happens in their own community.”
Flores, who will be attending Harvard University next year, said it is time to stop this injustice, and asked the Council to insert this provision in its final Charter vote.
“Let’s not wait for the state to fix this injustice; let’s be the leaders,” he said. “There are business owners in this city who live here as well and do not get to vote. Why? They don’t have the accurate paperwork.”