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Metro Council Votes To Ask AG For Opinion On Dual-Citizen Councilman

Kentucky's Attorney General is being asked to weigh in on whether a local politician who is a dual-citizen is eligible to serve on the Louisville Metro Council.

Council members passed a resolution Thursday evening asking Attorney General Andy Beshear to say whether he believes Councilman Vitalis Lanshima of District 21 can legally continue to serve on the body.

Lanshima is the first immigrant to serve on the Metro Council.

He came under fire in recent weeks after it was learned that he missed about 20 Metro Council and committee meetings, including some because he was in his native Nigeria, where he is running for national office. He lost his Metro Council primary in May and his term will expire at the end of this year.

The requirements for serving on Metro Council are that the person should be at least 18 years old, a resident in the area they seek to represent for at least a year prior to the election and a qualified voter. It is that last point that is in question, since Kentucky law says a voter cannot be registered to vote "elsewhere."

Lanshima registered to vote in Nigeria earlier this year, which the Jefferson County Attorney said last week disqualifies him from serving on the Metro Council. The resolution asks that, if the Attorney General agrees, he take whatever action he deems appropriate.

Beshear is not required to offer an opinion based on a Metro Council resolution.

Councilman Lanshima voted against the resolution because he said the United States Supreme Court has already ruled that a dual-citizen can vote in another country and in the United States. He pointed out that U.S. Senator Ted Cruz is a dual-citizen.

"The right to be an elected official in Kentucky is your right to vote, essentially," Lanshima said. "So are you telling me that any American who is a dual-citizen cannot vote in America because they are dual-citizens?"

He was joined by four others — Jessica Green, Mary Woolridge, Robin Engel and Barbara Shanklin — in voting no.

Councilman David Yates of District 25 argued that it was a waste of time and taxpayer dollars to spend so much time arguing over a non-binding resolution. Even if the Attorney General offers an opinion, it would come months after Lanshima leaves office, he said. Even so, Yates voted for the resolution because he said it could be useful to have the Attorney General's opinion.

District 18's Marilyn Parker also voted for the resolution. She and some others said an opinion could be necessary in case there is a future candidate who is a dual-citizen.

"This is a city that support globalism, so this could become an issue in the future. Not very likely, but it could be," she said. "We are a changing demographic and so maybe we do need the answers and get it nailed down once and for all."

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.