Third Party & Independents Archives

Granting Immigrants the Right to Vote

Due to the ever increasing wait time imposed on immigrants before they can apply for citizenship, documented immigrants in California now account for almost one in five adults. It is clearly time America joined the rest of the world and granted Immigrants the right to vote.

Immigrant workers buy products, pay taxes, work hard, serve in our armed forces, are members of the community, and assume other responsibilities of local citizenship. They should have a say in government.

As a candidate for Secretary of State in California, I am calling for a change in the California Constitution to give cities the right to allow documented non-citizens to vote in municipal elections.

Today, it is almost a necessity in many cities that immigrants are granted the right to vote. You can't have a growing number of residents in urban jurisdictions that are not part of the body politic. It is important to have everyone under the same decision making tent.

The implementation of immigrant voting will enable California cities to join a growing number of cities across the country, including Chicago, Cambridge, and Takoma Park, which have adopted similar laws in recent years.

Immigrants have historically been allowed to vote

From 1776 until 1926, non-citizen voting was widespread in the United States. During that time 22 states and federal territories allowed non-citizens to vote in local, state, and even federal elections.

The US Constitution still gives states and municipalities the right to decide who is eligible to vote, however, many state constitutions (including California) have repealed that right.

In 2004, San Francisco Green Party Supervisor Matt Gonzalez put an initiative on the ballot to allow immigrants to vote in school board elections. Whiel the initial failed, it but did received 49% of the vote. If it had passed, it would have empowered the parents of one-third of the children in San Francisco public schools to have a saying in how their children are educated.

Today similar initiatives are being considered in several cities in California, including Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Bernardino.

With the current debate over immigration the time has come to seriously reconsider the question of non-citizen voting. History is on the side of those of us who support the right of all members of our community to have a voice in government.

Immigrant voting provides pathway to citizenship

The most common objection to non-citizen voting is that immigrants should only obtain voting rights after becoming citizens. Otherwise you create the possibility of people voting who have no stake in society.

Historically, most immigrants that come to America intend to become citizens. What has changed in recent years is that the naturalization process has become increasingly cumbersome, the application backlog has increased to about 5 years (since September 11, 2001), and the cost of naturalization has skyrocketed.

During the time it takes to become a citizen, immigrants miss out on an important opportunity to contribute to their new country. Meanwhile, their children miss the chance to learn by the example of seeing their parents vote.

While immigrant voting is not a substitute for citizenship, it promotes civic education and political literacy among newcomers, and provides a clear pathway to citizenship.

Today, the practice of non-citizen voting has spread to more than 20 countries around the world, including to communities in New Zealand, Chile, Israel, and all Member States of the European Union.

Non-citizen voting caught on in Europe in the 1960s precisely because the growing number of immigrant workers prompted nations to think about ways to integrate mobile populations into their new communities.

If these countries with their large immigrant populations are able to accommodate non-citizen voting, there is no reason we cannot implement the same enlightened policy here.

Conclusion

The practice of non-citizen voting is as old as the United States. A growing number of American cities now allow all legal residents to participate in elections. Nonetheless, there remain significant tensions between those who support non-citizen voting and those who question its legitimacy and meaning.

The many initiatives being debated across the United States will build the body of knowledge on non-citizen voting. With millions of votes potentially hanging in the balance, the results of this debate will shape US communities and immigration policies long into the future.

Posted by Forrest Hill at September 23, 2006 10:07 PM
Comments
Comment #183549

Forrest, I am not sure how many state Constitutions would permit such an act, if any. But, I don’t see this issue gaining traction with the general public. Citizenship should always be held to a very high standard conferring upon it certain rights and liberties NOT enjoyed by non-citizens.

I see no problem with local jurisdictions allowing non-citizen’s to vote on local issues, but, there still should be qualification hurdles they should meet if they are receive the same voice as citizens.

Then there is the 800 lb. gorilla in the center of this issue - it is called the “slippery ascent”, from local to state to national elections: to turn a phrase on its head, so to speak.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 23, 2006 11:43 PM
Comment #183555

David,

Now, you’ve done it. I have this image of an 800 pound gorilla on it’s head….stuck in mine.:)

Forrest, I’m curious what caused the change in 1926 with regards to this issue?

Posted by: gergle at September 24, 2006 12:07 AM
Comment #183578

I thought there was a five year waiting period. has that changed?

That does not seem too onerous. I do not want someone showing up from Iran and voting the next day.

Posted by: Jack at September 24, 2006 4:03 AM
Comment #183579

Sorry. Didn’t make it clear.

I thought that there was always a five year waiting period.

Anyway, it probably takes about five years for a person to learn enough about the U.S. (and learn enough English) to effectively participate in our country. Even after five years, many don’t. No reason to make the situation even worse.

Posted by: Jack at September 24, 2006 4:06 AM
Comment #183592

While I am not in favor of expanding suffrage to non-citizens, I think an excellent point has been raised. There are some issues for which residency may be more important than citizenry. After all, this is what the concept of local government is all about.

Jack, for the sake of argument, consider an immigrant who is fluent - say, one from England. How long does it take them to learn enough about their town, city, county, or state to participate? Compare this with me, a native urban New Yorker who moved to urban Virginia (living on the navy base in Norfolk) for five years, and then moves to a rural coal town in central Virginia. I know nothing about rural Virginia. I barely understand some of the language. And I get to vote in municipal elections regarding my new town. Does this seem logical?

I think it’s all about David’s slippery ascent (I like the term).

Posted by: Wulf at September 24, 2006 8:22 AM
Comment #183595

I dont want immigrants voting until they become citizens.

Main reason is because most of America’s immigrants come from central America, where socialism, to some degree, is the norm.

We have enough Americans using the government as a conduit for stealing from other Americans to staisfy their envy and greed. I certainly dont want immigrants voting until they’ve, by necessity, worked their butts off and realized how much opportunity is here if you work for it.

Many immigrants I’ve run into are for more enterprising and motivated that the average spoiled American who pants and pines for politicians to GIVE ME SOMETHING.

I fear that if immigrants vote immediately upon entering the US, they will be unable to resist the temptation of voting for the candidate who promises the most, even if it drains the economy and the soul.

How about a poll tax too!?

Posted by: Matt Goldseth at September 24, 2006 8:44 AM
Comment #183602

Forrest,
Why all of a sudden is the waiting period a bad thing? Under your plan the terrorist that took out the twin towers would have been able to vote. Somehow that doesnt seem right.

Posted by: j2t2 at September 24, 2006 9:34 AM
Comment #183611

Wulf

I don’t think there are any coal towns in central Virginia. If you moved to one, you might quickly realize that you were in western or even West Virginia. That might change your voting pattern.

It is a matter of some standard. Sure enough, there are some Americans who will never have to cognitive ability to understand the issues of voting. Clearly many (especially Dems) cannot even handle the actual act of voting. On the other hand, I am sure there are foreigners who would know the issues up and down and could make a good choice. But we need some line. Citizenship should convey privileges.

The other obvious problem is that it would allow foreign interests to meddle in American affairs. This happens enough as it is. Our visa policy, middle eastern policy, policy toward Armenia etc is clearly influenced by U.S. citizen groups to favor certain points of view.

I would not want a bunch of Mexican citizens to vote on how border towns handle Mexican citizens. It should mean something to be an American. We can demand that our citizens give up their loyalty to any foreign despot, potentate or nation. Not all will anyway, but we cannot even ask a foreign citizen to do this.

Posted by: Jack at September 24, 2006 10:05 AM
Comment #183627

Jack, if it is true that there aren’t any coal towns in central Virginia, it would only highlight the point about ignorant voters moving in from elsewhere in America.

It seems that you and I agree overall, but you keep making arguments that apply to the federal level, and not so much to the local level. I just want to point that out.

Posted by: Wulf at September 24, 2006 12:18 PM
Comment #183641
Forrest Hill wrote: As a candidate for Secretary of State in California, I am calling for a change in the California Constitution to give cities the right to allow documented non-citizens to vote in municipal elections.

Forrest Hill,
Aren’t there more important things to make an issue of? Besides, there’s already little to nothing from preventing non-citizens from voting in our elections. There’s no way to adequately confirm identification. Photo-ID is required in some places, a mere voter registration card is required in others (both easy to falsify), and no effective deterrents exist to prevent voter fraud.

No one knows the real numbers of non-citizens voting in our elections, but it is not ZERO.

With elections as close as some we’ve seen, voter fraud is no laughing matter.

So, my advice to you would not be to make your platform about allowing non-citizens to vote. I, personally would not vote for any politician that recommends that. However, a candidate that addresses the serious issue of voter fraud might get my vote (provided they are not already an irresponsible, bought-and-paid-for incumbent politician).

If too many American citizens continue to be too uncaring, lazy, and complacent to bother to vote, there are plenty of non-citizens willing to take their place, and plenty of pandering politicians that want their vote (and cheap labor too, to exploit an underpaid, under-class), proving that the U.S. is truly FOR-SALE.

Posted by: d.a.n at September 24, 2006 2:26 PM
Comment #183664

I have to admit that letting immigrants vote, at any governmental level quite a bizarre idea.

Posted by: womanmarine at September 24, 2006 4:41 PM
Comment #183673
I have to admit that letting immigrants vote, at any governmental level quite a bizarre idea.
I’m assuming you mean non-citizens?

Bizzare? Not these days, when politicians are trying to dream up new hot-button issues (e.g. flag burning, filabuster, prayer in public school, etc.), no matter how asinine, to get themselves some visibility and name-recognition, to whip the voters up into a frenzy of circular thought and behavior, and distract the voters from more important issues that politicians have no solutions for, or any intentions of ever addressing.

It seems bizzare, and you wonder how this sort of thing even sees the light of day. The reason is because politicians know that they can buy votes this way, by making such promises, and possibly succeed in the end because too many Americans will not even bother to get out to vote against it (such as the 78 million of 200 million eligible voters that didn’t even bother to vote in 2004 election).

The United States is FOR-SALE.

83% of all federal campaign donatons ($200 an more) come from only a mere 0.1% of the U.$. population, and a mere 1% has 40% (and growing) of all wealth in the U.S. This trend is a result irresponsible government, and voters that empower or tolerate it, without regard for where it is headed (for us, and our children).

When the consequences of these types of decisions are finally realized, we will see that we are selling ourselves out. We are being crushed under the weight and decisions of corrupt, irresponsible incumbent politicians and voters that empower those politicians. We are selling ourselves out. Or, perhaps we already sold-out a long time ago, and we are merely witnessing the transfer of the assets of that sale now ? When the deal is complete, we will realize our loss (too late), and we will have no one but ourselves to thank for it.

Posted by: d.a.n at September 24, 2006 6:33 PM
Comment #183718

d.a.n.:

I was responding in kind to the title of this blog: Granting Immigrants the Right to Vote.

The original poster seems to think it is unfair to have to be a citizen to vote.

Posted by: womanmarine at September 25, 2006 2:17 AM
Comment #183727

What bs, voting is for citizens and citzens only, and not for illegals at all. If they want to come to this country legally, then they can wait the time to get naturalized and then vote, unless of course they want to join the military and service in George’s war.

Posted by: KT at September 25, 2006 7:39 AM
Comment #183833

Jack and Wolf - you don’t have to know English to vote - don’t you get all of your voting material in multiple languages like I do? Heck you don’t even have to be literate or have an above moronic IQ to vote… So that argument is already dead.

Do I think people should learn English if they live here - yes! But we don’t seem very eager to encourage them to do so by only printing English ballots or election materials.

Voting is the right of a Citizen, an immigrant has no such right and should not have that right until they become a citizen. Legal immigrants are guests in our country and should be treated as such - they don’t get to decide how the country is run, just as a guest in my home does not get to weigh in on how I manage my house.

People that don’t have the responsibilitiy of defending this country should not be able to weigh in on decisions about how we run the country. Selective Service (dormant at this time) is a good example of a program that needs much modification - you can’t create a situation where women can vote to send men to war.

In my opinion there should be no selective service or mandatory conscription - if a situation arises that warrants our country going to war - there should be plenty of volunteers - if you can’t get volunteers it’s probably a pretty good indicator that the war is not worth fighting. Look at Afghanistan vs. Iraq, people like Pat Tillman signed up to go fight terrorists…

Posted by: Redlenses at September 25, 2006 10:02 PM
Comment #183917
womanmarine wrote: I was responding in kind to the title of this blog: Granting Immigrants the Right to Vote. The original poster seems to think it is unfair to have to be a citizen to vote.

Right … I was merely trying to verify the distinction between immigrants that are, or are not U.S. citizens. That is, the word immigrant by itself is somewhat inclusive, regardless of legal citizenship status.

womanmarine wrote: The original poster seems to think it is unfair to have to be a citizen to vote.
Yes, the original poster believes non-citizens should be able to vote. The sad fact is that non-citizens are already voting in our elections, and there is little or nothing to stop them.

Too bad pandering politicians are not as interested in reducing voter-fraud (a more important issue), as they are in trying to buy votes disguised as demands for equality and fairness.

KT wrote: What bs, voting is for citizens and citzens only…
I agree. You just can’t help but shake your head incredulously and wonder about the motivation of the these pandering, bought-and-paid-for, sell-out politicians who want to give rights away to the rest of the world, while ignoring all of our pressing probelms, with little or no regard for the negative effects of excessive, massive immigration (legal or not), importing massive numbers of impoverished and uneducated, it’s negative social impact, societal disorder, increased tensions, increased crime rates (e.g. in Los Angeles (year 2004), 95% of over 1200 outstanding warrants for homicide and 67% of 17,000 fugitive felony warrants are for illegal aliens), and massive burdens on existing U.S. citizens. There are logical, common-sense reasons for a controlled approach to immigration, but some pandering politicians can’t see that in their pursuit of votes disguised as demands for Utopian “equality and fairness”.
Redlenses wrote: People that don’t have the responsibilitiy of defending this country should not be able to weigh in on decisions about how we run the country. … Voting is the right of a Citizen, an immigrant has no such right and should not have that right until they become a citizen. Legal immigrants are guests in our country and should be treated as such - they don’t get to decide how the country is run, just as a guest in my home does not get to weigh in on how I manage my house.

Good points! Wonder why pandering politicians have not considered those important issues? Perhaps because all they care about is buying votes?

  • Posted by: d.a.n at September 26, 2006 9:08 AM
    Comment #184072

    Mexicans are the indigenous people of the Southwest.

    This is their land and they should not even be considered immigrants.

    I know they are not the only immigrants we are talking about but that is something that I laugh at when we have such a short historical memory to base political decision on.

    Posted by: Lando at September 26, 2006 4:46 PM
    Comment #194115

    If guests have to do dishes, clean the place and help pay the bills, then they’re really not guests, are they? They have become roommates. They deserve the right to vote, at least at the local level.

    Posted by: carol at November 8, 2006 6:48 PM
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