After hearing from more than a dozen parents and students Tuesday night, the Portland Board of Education narrowly passed a resolution supporting a potential voter referendum that would allow legal non-citizen residents to vote in the city’s local elections.
The proposal from Portland Councilor Pious Ali and Mayor Ethan Strimling would make Portland the first city in the state to allow non-citizens to vote.
On Tuesday, many students and parents from the city’s immigrant communities came out in force to speak on the proposal. Parent Rodento Biacho told the board that he and other parents wanted a to elect the representatives shaping his childrens’ education.
“We want to participate in every election. Every vote," Biacho said. "As parents, it’s our right to know what’s happening with our children in the schools."
The board passed the resolution with four members’ support. But other officials were concerned about supporting the proposal, saying that the school board shouldn’t be involved in the issue.
Board member Mark Balfantz said that it was still unclear if the referendum question was legal, and could require changes to state law.
“For us to take it up right now, before any of that has been discussed, is not within our purview,” Balfantz said.
The referendum question would need to be passed by the Portland City Council next week before going to the city’s voters in the fall.