2013-08-02 / Columnists

From The Councilman

Should Non-Citizens be Allowed to Vote?
By Eric A. Ulrich

The City Council is considering legislation which would extend the right to vote to non-citizens in municipal elections. The bill (Intro. 410), sponsored by my colleagues Daniel Dromm (D-Queens) and Gale Brewer (DManhattan), would give legal immigrants who are residents of the city for at least six months the right to decide who the next Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough President and Members of the City Council should be. Historically, the right to vote has been reserved for citizens only and is one of our most cherished privileges as Americans. I think it should stay that way.

If this legislation passes, New York would be the largest city in the nation that allows non-citizens the right to vote. Non-citizen voting laws are currently on the books in smaller towns in Maryland and Massachusetts, although Massachusetts has yet to implement it because they require state approval.

Proponents argue that not allowing non-citizens to vote amounts to “taxation without representation.” I disagree. In order to become a citizen of the United States, an individual is required to become a permanent resident for a certain amount of time, usually a few years, during which they must pay taxes and learn the English language before taking the citizenship exam. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, despite the broken immigration system and the federal government’s failure to enact comprehensive immigration reform, the right to vote is still an attractive incentive for newly arriving immigrants to get on a path towards citizenship. Proponents are also quick to point to recent precedent for this; noncitizens were able to vote in school board elections and serve on school boards until they were abolished in 2002.

I do not support this legislation. In fact, I am offended by this latest attempt to dilute the democratic process. Too many have given their greatest measure of devotion to our country and made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedoms so that we might enjoy the right to choose those who represent us. Surely, the framers of our Constitution did not envision allowing people the right to vote in elections when they haven’t even taken an oath of allegiance to the United States.

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