Amherst representative pushes for non-citizen voting rights in town

There are 19,000 current registered voters, and only 3,000 normally vote in town elections

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – Amherst State representative Solomon Goldstein-Rose has filed a bill that would grant voting rights in town elections to permanent Amherst residents who are non-citizens.  Goldstein-Rose said the change could generate higher voter turnout, by including international professors and students who live in Amherst. They would only be allowed to vote in town elections – not state or federal.

“This has been requested before by the town, but it’s never gotten through the legislature,” says Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman.

Earlier this year, Amherst Town Meeting approved a warrant that gives permanent, non-citizens the right to vote locally. Now, the next step is having this approved by the Legislature.

The 2010 U.S. census found more than 37,000 people live in Amherst, including students who attend the town’s two colleges and UMass. There are 19,000 current registered voters.

Shalini Milne just became a citizen after living in town for 15 years. She voted for the first time in November, but says she would’ve done it sooner if given the chance. “We are all living here,” Milne told 22News.”We are all impacted by the decisions that are being made, and it gets them to be more involved and more responsible then if they have a stake in it, if they’re voting.”

Only 15% cast ballots in local elections, which means fewer than 3,000 voters normally decide town elections.

The bill will be reviewed at legislative committee meetings.