AUGUSTA – In a public hearing before the Maine Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling compared Mainers who oppose allowing non-citizens to vote in Maine’s local election to the “nativist” movement started by the Klu Klux Klan 140 years ago.
Strimling’s testimony was delivered as Mayor of Portland, and Strimling told the committee, on “behalf of the people of Portland”, although he acknowledged the Portland City Council had yet to take action in the proposal to allow non-citizens to vote.
Mayor Strimling told the committee that current efforts to stop non-citizens from voting are wrong and that non-citizens should be allowed to vote in local elections.
The public hearing in which Strimling testified was for a bill that proposes an amendment to the Maine Constitution that would prohibit non-citizens from being allowed to vote in local Maine elections.
Strimling also sparred a little with Senator Scott Cyrway, who asked why Strimling wasn’t concerned about foreign influence in elections that would, by its very existence, be created by allowing people with foreign loyalties to vote in some elections. Strimling responded saying it just wasn’t the same thing.
The Maine Municipal Association also testified in opposition to the proposal.
The League of Women Voters testified neither for or against the proposal.
A number of Maine citizens testified in support of the amendment, primarily citing the value of voting and the need for immigrants to go through the process of becoming a citizen before participating in what is thought of as the most important civic responsibility.
At the end of the public hearing, Senator Louis Luchini (D – Hancock) told the committee that a letter from the Maine Attorney General’s Office sent to the committee informed them that Maine law already forbids cities and towns from allowing non-citizens to vote.