Last week the College Park, Maryland, city council announced that noncitizens, including illegal aliens, would be permitted to vote in local elections. Mayor Patrick Wojahn was actually proud of his city’s assault on the value of citizenship and the exclusive right of citizens of the United States to make important determinations about their governance.
This week he’s not feeling so proud, but it has nothing to do with College Park’s attempt to undermine one of the basic tenets of our republican form of government. Mayor Wojahn is embarrassed because he and the city council did not even know the basic rules of their own city charter. The measure granting the vote to noncitizens and illegal aliens passed the city council by a 4-3 vote. (Ironically, the city council does not extend the right to vote on council resolutions to people who have not actually been elected to serve on the council, and they also rejected an amendment to put the matter to a public referendum.) But according to council rules, charter amendments, such as who should be allowed to vote in local elections, requires a supermajority of the nine-member city council. In other words, the measure needed six votes, not four in order to be adopted.
“It is with considerable embarrassment and regret that we acknowledge our oversight,” Wojahn announced on Saturday. Violating a provision of the city charter (that was just approved in June!) isn’t the only thing the mayor should be embarrassed and regretful about. But given his manifest ignorance about the core principles of American democracy and the rules of the city over which he presides, perhaps he might want to kick this one up to a higher authority: the citizen voters of College Park.