Boston City Council approves voting rights for immigrants with ‘legal status’

The Boston City Council approved a home rule petition that grants immigrants with “legal status” the ability to vote in local elections, over concerns that the move could jeopardize their path to attaining full citizenship.

The 8-4 vote taken Wednesday was described as a largely “symbolic gesture” by Councilor Gabriela Coletta who stated that conversations with her constituents drove her to vote ‘yes’ on the measure, despite the serious legal ramifications that could arise from non-citizens mistakenly voting in state or federal elections.

“After checking with members of my community, to them a ‘yes’ vote would show solidarity with those who are here legally, pay taxes and are members of, not just East Boston, but Boston as a whole,” said Coletta, who represents East Boston. “I do intend to vote ‘yes’ for them and for them only.”

Coletta, in a lengthy prepared statement read prior to the vote, directed the councilors to “be real” about what their ‘yes’ vote meant.

The mayor “may or may not” sign the home rule petition that passed through the Council, following a list of legal concerns cited by the city’s Election Department in prior Council hearings, she said, and, if the measure is sent to Beacon Hill, it could be one of the majority of city petitions that die in the state Legislature.

The measure could also be subject to legal challenges, Coletta said.

“The population in which we are trying to enfranchise deserves a tangible pathway,” Coletta said. “This docket is a starting point. However, due to the obstacles ahead, passage today serves simply as a symbolic gesture.”

Coletta joined seven other councilors from the progressive wing of the body — Ricardo Arroyo, Liz Breadon, Sharon Durkan, Kendra Lara, Ruthzee Louijeune, Julia Mejia and Brian Worrell — in voting to extend voting rights to non-citizens.

The four conservative-leaning councilors, Frank Baker, Michael Flaherty, Ed Flynn and Erin Murphy, voted in opposition.

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