THE HISTORY OF IMMIGRANT VOTING
RIGHTS IN MARYLAND
The Immigrant Voting Project and
New York University Law Students for Human Rights
Resident Noncitizen Voting in Maryland:
Maryland did not always have a citizenship requirement for suffrage. As early as 1692, aliens were permitted to hold office in Maryland, and the state’s original constitution extended suffrage to “inhabitants” of the state. It was not until 1810, during a time of increasing anti-immigrant sentiment, that Maryland’s constitution was amended to restrict the vote to “citizens” as follows:
“ART. XIV. That every free white male citizen of this State, above twenty-one years of age, and no other, having resided twelve months within this State, and six months in the county, or in the city of Annapolis or Baltimore, next preceding the election at which he offers to vote, shall have a right of suffrage, and shall vote, by ballot, in the election of such county or city, or either of them, for electors of the President and Vice-President of the United States, for Representatives of this State in the Congress of the United States, for delegates to the general assembly of this State, electors of the senate, and sheriffs.” (Ratified 1810)
It was not until the Constitution of 1851 that the UNITED STATES citizenship requirement made it into the Maryland Constitution for the first time. The constitution currently in force was first adopted in 1867; of course it has been amended since then, but the U.S. citizenship language remains:
Every citizen of the United States, of the age of 18 years or upwards, who is a resident of the State as of the time for the closing of registration next preceding the election, shall be entitled to vote in the ward or election district in which he resides at all elections to be held in this state.
Similarly, Maryland’s electoral law sets forth a citizenship requirement:
(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, an individual may become registered to vote if the individual:
(1) is a citizen of the United States;
(2) is at least 18 years old on or before the day of the next succeeding general or special election;
(3) is a resident of the county as of the day the individual seeks to register; and
(4) registers pursuant to this title.
Although Maryland’s constitution requires U.S. citizenship for state-level suffrage, municipalities governed by charter may provide for local-level non-citizen suffrage in their municipal charters. The State Election Code, §2-203, does not apply to municipalities, except Baltimore, that are governed by a charter:
the provisions of this section do not apply to a municipal corporation in the State in which the municipal or charter elections are regulated by the public local laws of the State or the charter of the municipal corporation.
Kevin J. Best of the Maryland Municipal League explains how municipalities may extend voting rights to non-citizens:
Under state universal registration law found in the State Election Code, a city or town resident that registers with the county also automatically is registered for municipal elections. A municipality may choose to use a supplemental voter registration list to extend the right to vote to municipal residents who do not wish to register with the county/state or do not meet the state’s minimum requirements. At least one municipality in Maryland, Takoma Park, allows non-U. S. citizens the right to vote in city elections.
A number of municipalities in Maryland allow non-citizen voting in local elections, including Takoma Park, Barnesville, Martin’s Additions, Somerset and Chevy Chase. The legal scholar and non-citizen voting expert, Jamin Raskin, offers one explanation for the Maryland towns’ pioneering actions in reviving non-citizen voting:
As more intimate communities whose alien populations are apparently composed, in substantial part, of World Bank and embassy personnel working in Washington, D.C., these Maryland jurisdictions rest their policies on both natural rights understandings and the early property-based conception of local voting rights. It is necessary to note that most of the inhabitants of these small communities tend to share a similar economic and social status which dilutes the threatening image many citizens have of aliens. They also share a physical proximity which permits them to have unrushed and disarming face-to-face encounters with one another.
Martin’s Additions and Somerset were created as a Special Taxing District that is part of the Village of Chevy Chase. Noncitizens were given the vote in the two municipalities in 1976, through a revision to the charter of the District. These were the first towns in the area to extend the vote to noncitizens.
Takoma Park amended its municipal charter to give all residents, regardless of citizenship, the right to vote and run for office in local elections on March 31, 1992. It is the largest and most recent municipality to do so. On November 5, 1991, a non-binding citizen referendum asking, “Should the Takoma Park City Charter be changed to permit residents of Takoma Park who are not United States Citizens to vote in Takoma Park elections?,” passed by a margin of 1, 199 to 1, 107. The City Council subsequently adopted a Charter Amendment on February 10, 1992, “removing the requirement that voters and candidates for public office in Takoma Park be U.S. citizens in order to participate in the city’s biennial elections.”
More recently, advocates in Prince Georges County have taken up initiatives to establish noncitizen voting in its twenty seven municipalities.
 Lisa Garcia Bedolla, Rethinking Citizenship: Noncitizen Voting and Immigrant Political Engagement in the United States, Working Paper, University of California, Irvine, 5 FN 2.
 Rosburg, supra note 11, at 1097-98 (1977).
 MD Const. Art. 1 §1.
 MD Code Art. 33, §3-102.
 The Maryland constitution has a home rule provision contained in Article 11-a. Sections 1 and 1a set forth the procedure for a county or the City of Baltimore to establish a charter board, which writes the county’s charter. Section 5 specifies the procedure for amending the charter.
 MD Elec. Law, §2-202(a).
 From the website of the Maryland Municipal League, athttp://www.mdmunicipal.org/documents/pubdocs/MunicipalElections.pdf.
 Bedolla, supra note 32, at 16 FN 40.
 Raskin, supra note 21, at 1462.
 The Village of Martin’s Additions, Village History, athttp://www.martinsadditions.org/vmahist.htm.
 Raskin, supra note 21, at 1463.
 Id. at 1463.
 Id. at 1463.
 Id. at 1463.
 Id. at 1465. In response to Takoma Park’s actions in favor of non-citizen voting, attempts were made on both the local and state level to prevent the amendment from taking effect. Delegate John Morgan introduced a bill in the Maryland House of Delegates to ban voting by non-citizens in local elections, but the measure failed by a 11-6 vote on March 17, 1992. Id. at 1465-66.