Should I Be Allowed To Vote?

Literally, me. New York is debating the issue:

The New York City Council is seriously considering a measure that would permit voting by legally resident noncitizens in municipal elections after six months’ residence. If the measure passes, it would surely energize similar initiatives in other major metropolitan areas.

Noncitizen voting was once the norm, even in federal elections. At the beginning of the 20th century, as many as 22 states and territories allowed noncitizens to vote not just for local but also for national elections. Noncitizens legally voted in every presidential election until 1924. The practice coincided with an immigrant surge approximating today’s.

The case for permanent resident voting:

Opponents of noncitizen voting ignore basic conceptions of self-governance. Noncitizens are directly affected by local government and pay local taxes. Accordingly, they should have the same say as their neighbors in how they are governed. It was on that theory that even undocumented immigrant parents were allowed to vote in New York City school-board elections until the elected board was abolished in 2002.

More than 35 percent of New Yorkers are foreign-born; many remain noncitizens and many are economically challenged. Denying the vote to so large a proportion of the community gives rise to a new kind of rotten borough.

Because of the HIV ban, I have lived in the US for 20 years with no right to vote, no citizen’s constitutional rights, no guarantee of social security, no access to any medical benefits by the state … and yet, I have been taxed at a rate of roughly 50 percent for the past decade or so. You’d think I’d be furious. I am maddened by the irrationality of the HIV ban – and the long decades of complacency since.

And yet I favor restricting votes to citizens. Voting is integral to a democratic society and although I have paid my taxation and had no representation, that merely makes me the same as every other US citizen in the District of Columbia. My view is that until all citizens are able to be represented in the Congress, no permanent residents should.

DC’s core rights must come first – or we will be giving non-citizens more democratic leverage than citizens.