Let Legal Immigrants Vote?

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Elections, Immigration

I know, it sounds like a fairly odd proposal, but wait till you find out an interesting piece of trivia later on…as if that’s not a big giveway.

From the New York Post:

February 20, 2007 — Immigrant-rights activists yesterday renewed their push to allow legal noncitizens to vote in the Big Apple.

A bill that would grant permanent residents and other legal immigrants the right to vote in municipal elections has been stalled in the City Council since last year.

“More than 50,000 adult noncitizen taxpayers in those two districts are disenfranchised by citizenship voting laws,” said Cheryl Wertz, of New Immigrant Community Empowerment, referring to today’s special election for council seats in Brooklyn and Staten Island.

Now the interesting part…

Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn), the sponsor of the Voting Rights Restoration Act, said that years ago, when immigrants were mostly European, they had voting rights.

“Then when the complexion of immigrants changes, then all of a sudden, the laws change,” he said.

Ron Hayduk, a CUNY professor, concurred, saying immigrants voted in national elections from 1776 through 1926.

So, can anybody shed additional light on this? I’m not ready to reinstate the legal immigrant vote, but there seems to be a precedent that stopped for some unknown reason (the story doesn’t elaborate).


This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 20th, 2007 and is filed under Elections, Immigration. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

10 Responses to “Let Legal Immigrants Vote?”

  1. Rich Horton Says:

    Methinks I smell a little BS here, but I’ll have to dig a bit to be sure. For starters 1776?? Who exactly counts as a “immigrant” in 1776? And what sort of “national elections” were they having?

    My guess is they mean there were no Federal Statutes covering or defining immigrant voting rights until the 1920′s, when it was proscribed. I find it odd, given how important immigrant votes (and the buying and selling thereof) were to the urban machine politics of the 19th century that this wasn’t something addressed by the progressive era reforms. (It may have been on the local level as opposed to the Federal.)

    It must also be remembered that for much of the period covered from 1776-1926 you needed to be a freeholder to vote, and since immigrants were not “propertied” they couldn’t vote anyway.

    Funny how a CUNY Prof doesn’t seem to know that.

  2. Rich Horton Says:

    I think this chart from the Census Bureau blows the “It’s a racist conspiracy” part of teh article out of the water. it isn’t until the 1960′s that immigrants from palces like Asia and Africa and Latin America start increasing in large numbers. In 1920 85% of the immigrants came from Europe, and in 1930 it was 83%. (These numbers were 87% in 1910 and 85% in 1900.) So the claim that some change was instituted in 1926 based on skin color seems to be demostrably false.

  3. bob in fl Says:

    The idea of legal immigrants who are not citizens voting make less sense than a bank giving credit cards to illegal immigrants w/o SS cards, like Bank of America is doing. If a legal residents choose not to become a citizen or do not qualify, they should not have the right to our most basic right of voting. period. The whole idea sounds like a scheme to gain political advantage for someones gain.

  4. James Says:

    I don’t buy it.

    These people are working to become citizens. Why is it so important that they be given citizen privileges BEFORE they finish earning that right?

    If you afford them the rights before they complete the process then WHY BOTHER?

  5. GN Says:

    What James said!

  6. GN Says:

    Ummm … What’s next? Degrees issued upon matriculation?

  7. Bob Aman Says:

    If indeed true, it should not be considered a precedent so much as a mistake we eventually fixed. As Rich and James already pointed out, the potential for abuse is much, much too high, and such an action would greatly reduce the incentive to become a citizen. If anything, we need to be doing the opposite and making it so that citizenship is not a birthright (like the vast majority of other countries have done). As it stands right now, immigration, both legal and otherwise, has become a major problem that is demonstrably putting excessive strain on the economic stability of the United States.

  8. Carter Says:

    We tax legal immigrants yet we don’t allow them to vote. That does not seem fair. Taxation without representation was one of the major grievances which caused our country to declare its independence. Many other countries, such as the UK, allow legal immigrants to vote.

  9. ronda s Says:

    @ Carter – yes, there are other countries, such as the UK, who allow it and look at the mess it has gotten itself into. People who don’t want to take the steps required to be a citizen of America and EARN the right to vote don’t deserve it. You don’t “test drive” a car and get to go down the street and have it repainted, it’s not your car, it’s not your right. When people come here legally, get a green card, I look at that as their “test drive”. They earn the rights of an American when they become an American. One of my friends is British and is here because she met her DH when he was stationed in UK. She has no plans to give up her British citizenship as she loves her country. I don’t fault her for that at all. BUT, she also isn’t looking for rights that only CITIZENS have. You are really a CITIZEN of the US until you give up your allegiance to your country of birth. Another example, you don’t enroll in a college with the ‘intent’ to graduate and then 2 years down the road start demanding that they award you a diploma because you are “going to finish”. You get the diploma when you fulfill the requirements. No one is denying these people ANYTHING. They will get the rights when they fulfill the requirement.

  10. ronda s Says:

    sorry typo- should read: “You really aren’t a CITIZEN of the US until you give up your allegiance to your country of birth.”

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