Portland is considering amending its charter to allow non-citizens the right to vote in municipal elections. But even if passed by voters, proponents concede that it will likely take a court ruling or a change in state law for the measure to be implemented.

The Portland Press Herald asked the four candidates for governor whether they would support changing state law, if needed, to allow municipalities to extend voting rights to non-citizens. Below are their responses:

Alan Caron, independent: “I have long been an advocate for increasing the number of immigrants to Maine from across the country and from around the world. That is essential to growing our economy. But I don’t believe that people should be given the rights of citizenship before becoming citizens, particularly when it comes to voting. One problem is that it takes too long to become a citizen now. We should work together to help immigrants become citizens more quickly so they can be better integrated into our communities and have a voice. But we shouldn’t short-circuit the process by giving citizenship rights to people who aren’t yet citizens.”

Terry Hayes, independent: “I do not support non-citizen voting. There are lots of people who have interests in public policy outcomes in Maine but are non-voters, including non-resident property owners, non-resident business owners, seasonal visitors and non-citizens. Voting is a fundamental right of citizenship and residency. I support efforts to shorten the time frame for naturalization and I look forward to attending naturalization ceremonies as Maine’s governor to officially welcome new citizens, showing by my presence the welcoming atmosphere Maine cultivates for new citizens.”

Janet Mills, Democrat, via campaign spokesman Scott Ogden: “As governor, Janet would welcome new Mainers and recognize their contributions to our state. She believes that voting – the foundation of our democracy – is a fundamental right that should be reserved for American citizens.”

Shawn Moody, Republican, via campaign director Lauren LePage: “NO! Voting is a sacred right reserved for American citizens.”

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