I am writing to support the effort to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections in Portland.

My name is Allan Monga. I am an upcoming senior at Deering High School and an asylum-seeker from Zambia. Some of you may know me from my recent exchange with the National Endowment for the Arts over their policy not to allow people like me to participate at the national level of their spoken poetry contest. They recently agreed that excluding immigrants was not reflective of their values and, thankfully, they have overturned their ban.

In that light, I am very pleased that Councilor Pious Ali, Mayor Ethan Strimling and so many of my fellow immigrants are fighting to provide immigrants like me with the opportunity to vote in Portland municipal elections.

Having non-citizens vote will not only promote our diversity but also will strengthen our democratic principles. Non-citizens will feel an even deeper sense of belonging, as including us in decision-making will make us even more a part of the city we love.

This will also improve our cultural diversity. Diversifying our culture involves changing deeply rooted patterns from ancient times and enhancing our traditions. Changes in recent decades have been experienced in many fields, including education, work, personal relationships and now, perhaps, democratic decision-making. From my point of view, the effort to expand voting rights is right in line with further diversifying our culture.

As the City Council continues to work on this proposal, I urge all immigrants and U.S. citizens, indeed, all Portland residents, to speak up and support it.

Allan Monga


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