Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

Non-citizen residents deserve the right to vote

BDN photo courtesy of Seth Koenig

Posted on October 23, 2012 in Perspectives
By Spencer McBreairty

During my employment with the Bowdoin College Upward Bound program, I worked closely with several students from Sudan and Somalia who had relocated to Lewiston. The goal of the program is to help first generation college students, whether born in Maine or abroad, reach their goal of higher education. It became clear to me, and many others within the program, that these students are truly here for a better life. Since the 1990s, Portland has become home to a growing number of refugees from countries such as Somalia, Rwanda and Burundi.

Recently, Lewiston’s mayor Robert Macdonald, received criticism for expressing his view that the immigrants in his city needed to leave their cultures at the door and assimilate to a Western way of life.

Macdonald’s comments echo sentiment of the Fascist Front national of France and highlight cultural differences between immigrant populations and non-immigrants populations in a negative manner. Attending USM, many of us have had classes with students from all over the world. Whether they are here from England on exchange, a recent immigrant from central Africa or a lifelong resident, citizen or not, they are part of our community.

Comments similar to the mayor’s draw divisions in the sand: us versus them, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The USM community has changed for the better because of the new views, experiences and opinions brought by greater diversity. However, for many Americans, it is not simply enough that individuals wish to improve their quality of life and pursue a higher level of education when they come here. These people must also play the part of an American.

I mention Lewiston because our community is not simply Portland or Gorham. We are a three-campus university that serves nearly ten thousand students. Some students are American, some are not. But even at the school level, we have opened up opportunities for students to get involved in our government and organizations. It just seems sad that student government is the highest election for which many of our students can vote.
In 2009, Maine voted on whether or not to allow non-citizen residents to vote in municipal elections. The measure was overwhelmingly struck down in the legislature. In 2010, Portland had a unique chance to override the decision and legalize voting for non-citizen, legal residents at the local level, such as school board and city council. Although close, 52 percent of voters decided that those basic freedoms were too much.

While looking at Maine’s laws, I stumbled upon a fun fact. Citizens who are incarcerated, regardless of the severity of the crime, can vote. Yet my friend, born in Colombia but raised in Massachusetts since the age of two, cannot. Is she truly less worthy of the right to vote than a murderer who was just lucky enough to be born in Maine? Apparently so.

It wasn’t that long ago that only rich, white men could vote in elections. While we have come a long way as a country to ensure voting rights for citizens, we must expand them once again. Once a refugee is allowed to work, he begins to pay taxes. His tax money goes to paving the roads, building the schools and helping out the less fortunate. If our government has no qualms with taxing people, it should at least give them the right to check a box for Portland City Council.

  • C3sons

    Wrong to allow non citizens to vote!!!

  • Anonymous

    not less worthy, but not a citizen. It is that simple, it is an important privilege of our Country. The Mayor though could of put differently was somewhat correct, we are a melting pot. I am proud of my heritage, my family long assimilated to the culture of the United Staes, but is still pround of where their forefathers came from. If they are so proud of their culture why are some still here.

  • Anonymous

    WHAT?WHY?Stupid article.

  • Anna

    Wow, are you people really that ignorant and racist? The average American can’t even pass the citizen test so what the fuck are you all bitching about?

    Sacred American privilege? We’re not in the damn middle ages, cause I’m pretty sure you can vote in South America, Africa, you can even vote in communist China for crying out loud. Just cause these people haven’t taken a damn U.S. test, they can’t voice their opinions?

    Youre all implying that non-citizens are inferior to the god almighty American citizens. Wake the fuck up people.

  • Anonymous


    This one is a little different…. TwoDifferent Versions …
    TwoDifferent Morals


    The ant workshardin the withering heat all summer long, building
    his house and laying up suppliesfor the winter.

    The grasshopperthinksthe ant isa fool and laughs and dances and
    plays the summer away.

    Comewinter, the ant iswarmand well fed.

    The grasshopper hasnofood or shelter, so he dies out in the


    Beresponsible for yourself!


    The ant workshardin the withering heat and the rain all summer
    long, building hishouseand laying up supplies for thewinter.

    The grasshopper thinksthe antisa fool and laughs and dances and
    plays the summer away.

    Comewinter, the shiveringgrasshoppercallsa press conference and
    demands to know why the ant shouldbeallowed to be warm and well fed
    while he is cold andstarving.

    CBS,NBC, PBS, CNN,and ABC showup toprovide pictures of the
    shiveringgrasshoppernextto a video of the antinhis comfortable
    home with a table filled with food.Americais stunned by the sharp

    Howcan this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor
    grasshopperisallowed to suffer so?

    Kermitthe Frog appearson Oprahwiththe
    grasshopperandeverybody cries when they sing, ‘It’sNot Easy Being

    Occupythe Anthill stagesademonstration in front of the
    ant’shousewhere the news stations film the SEIUgroupsinging,
    Weshall overcome.

    Then Rev.Jeremiah Wright hasthe group kneel down to pray for
    thegrasshopper’s sake, whilehe damns the ants.

    PresidentObama condemnsthe ant andblames
    PresidentBush 43, President Bush 41, President Reagan, Christopher
    Columbus, andthePope forthe grasshopper’splight..

    NancyPelosi & Harry Reid exclaimin an interview with
    LarryKing thatthe ant hasgottenrich off the back of
    thegrasshopper,andboth call for an immediate tax hike on the ant
    tomake him pay his fair share.

    Finally,the EEOC draftsthe EconomicEquity
    &Anti-Grasshopper Actretroactiveto the beginning ofthe

    The ant isfined for failing to hire a proportionate number of
    greenbugs and, having nothingleft to payhis retroactive taxes,
    his home is confiscated by theGovernment Green Czarandgiven tothe

    Thestory ends as we see thegrasshopperandhis free-loading
    friendsfinishing up the last bits of the ant’s foodwhile the government
    house he is in,which, as you recall, just happens to be the ant’s
    oldhouse,crumbles around them because thegrasshopper doesn’t

    The ant has disappearedin the snow, never to be seen again.

    The grasshopper isfound deadin a drug related incident, and the
    house, now abandoned, istakenover bya gang of spiders
    whoterrorize the ramshackle, once prosperous andpeaceful, neighborhood.

    Theentire Nation collapsesbringingthe rest ofthe free
    world with it.


    Becareful how you vote in 2012.

    I’vesent this to you because I believe that you are an antnota

    Makesure that you passthis on to other ants.

    Don’tbother sendingit on to any grasshoppersbecausethey
    wouldn’tunderstand it, anyway

  • Anonymous


  • Stuff

    willnan i think you need “assestence” going to “collage.”  Honestly, a lot of these “forign” people are clearly far more educated than you and have a better understanding of how the world works these days.  Many of them have seen things that would terrify you way worse than them voting, and that somehow turning into a civil war?  Wow now i feel stupid.  If they want to vote it shows that they want to be part of America in a more meaningful way than paying a fine and pledging allegiance to the flag…  Id rather see them vote than some dumbass who doesn’t know how to use a spell check.

  • Willnan

    If a forign student becomes a american by law they can do and vote for any thing they want!! Untill that NO forign person will be allowed to vote in america its enough we give out assestence for them to go to collage..DO YOU WANT TO START A CIVIL WAR end this now befor the Sh–t hits the fan

  • Isf811

    Pay the $700, become a citizen and vote. WTF. Do you need a loan?

  • Strdust517

    Can’t believe the reactions to this piece.. people are just terrified of difference. I have been living here over ten years but my home country doesn’t allow dual-citizenship and to become a citizen now costs at least $700. I still have to pay taxes… but I can’t vote? It’s never made sense to me. I think the article is totally timely and relevant. The responses here are just ignorant. 

  • Matt Barnaby


  • fiddlehead5

    but it dosnt hurt

  • Anonymous

    Non-citizen residents can usually still vote in their own countries’ elections. They should not have a say in ours.

  • Jazz11

    Is this a joke?

  • Anonymous

     A pretty simple fix would be to become a citizen, but that would also require them to pledge allegience to America, which obviously, some of these people don’t seem to want to do.
     Maybe it’s time for the people that move here to decide whether they want to be……
     Not Somali Americans
           Sudanese Americans
           Mexican Americans


  • Rocky4

    Agreed 100%. Looks like that FB requirement down there for PPH
    has bit them right where it hurts. Rocky4

  •  Good for you, becoming a citizen! I’m glad you support the right to vote only for citizens.

  • The right to vote is the most basic, sacred American privilege there is. Nobody BUT American citizens should be able to vote, not ever.  That will not change.

  • MisterE

    CAPS doesn’t HELP at ALL.

  • fiddlehead5

    How can anyone be so stupid? Your friend could have beome a citizen since she has been here from age 2. My parents moved my two sisters and I to the USA when I was 3. At the age of 18 I became a citizen on my own. My oldest sister never bothered too so she can not vote . I would never consider changing the law even for my own sister. A NON-Citizen should NEVER be allowed to VOTE