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A few weeks ago, Puerto Rican Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla made a surprise announcement that soon he would submit legislation that would give undocumented immigrants and other non-citizens the right to vote in island-wide elections.

The move has been commended by immigrants’ rights groups, but is viewed by many on the island as a cheap move by an unpopular governor to try and fix the next election. It’s also left many people on the island asking: can the governor legally do it?

The answer, it turns out, seems to be “yes.” Federal law doesn’t stop states or cities from allowing non-citizens to vote.

Currently there are six towns in Maryland that allow all residents to vote in local elections regardless of immigration status, and a number of cities are currently considering extending the vote to all legal permanent residents.

Still, if Puerto Rico passes the law, it will be the first time in recent history that undocumented voting is adopted on such a large scale — and, some say it could set off a larger, national debate about immigrants and the right to vote. Our producer Marlon Bishop reports.

 

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images