New York City is doing something that may seem unprecedented but has been done before…allowing permanent non-citizen legal residents to vote in local elections. The last time this occurred was in school board elections during the decentralization years of the mid-20th century.
In the 19th and early 20th century, 40 states allowed non-citizens the franchise in local elections. They have never been permitted to vote in federal elections. Florida is one of three states where the state constitution allows for only citizens to vote.
What gives with New York City and other local governments with allowing non-citizens to vote? In New York’s case, there are 800,000 legal residents who are non-citizens. A third of them are from either the Dominican Republic or China.
I am in favor of making sure that every American has access to easily cast their ballot. It is a fundamental right of being an American. That is, it should be for a citizen of the United States. I draw the line at including those who are not citizens from participating in our elections.
Being an American citizen means more than being native born. It comes with an entire host of rights but also responsibilities. Many of us don’t want to be bothered with the responsibility part. For me and those like me, it was easy being a citizen…I was born here. But one of the brilliant things about America is that we allow every immigrant who follows the rules to take the oath of citizenship.
Yes, it is an arduous task. The bureaucracy does everything to discourage the green card holder from taking the final step to become an American. In general, we make it nearly impossible for most people to come here legally. I deplore all of that.
I have always felt at home in immigrant communities. I like the vibrancy that new arrivals bring. The resurgence of cities and neighborhoods where they settle is exciting. Abandoned properties are revitalized and new businesses spring to life. Our country is never the worst for welcoming people into the fold.
At the same time, I am not ready to share the franchise with those who haven’t taken that final step to become an American. The 800,000 non-citizen New Yorkers are taxpayers, business owners, parents, and law abiding with only a very small number who are not. But voting should be reserved for those that are American citizens.