In-Depth: Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) introduced this bill to affirm Congress’ opposition to granting illegal immigrants the right to vote, and to protect the voting rights of American citizens, especially legal immigrants who become citizens:
“Naturalized American citizens often describe casting their first ballot as one of the proudest moments of their lives. The act is a reminder that they have become Americans, with all the rights and responsibilities of Americans. Unfortunately, a handful of cities like Chicago, Cambridge, and most recently San Francisco allow illegal immigrants to vote in local elections. These radical policies weaken the voting power of law-abiding Americans, including naturalized citizens. Today I introduced a resolution stating that allowing illegal immigrants to vote devalues the franchise and diminishes the voting power of American citizens. I hope my colleagues will stand with me in protecting the right to vote for every American citizen of legal age, and rejecting all outside or foreign interference in our elections.”
Boston City Councilor Ed Flynn, who opposed his city’s proposal to provide non-citizens with legal residency the right to vote in local and citywide elections, called the right to vote “a privilege reserved for U.S. citizens”:
“The right to vote is a privilege reserved for U.S. citizens. The right to vote is a unique characteristic and privilege reserved for those individuals who have gone through the extensive citizenship application process.”
The Conservative Review derided this resolution, calling it a “toothless” measure that doesn’t do anything meaningful:
“Republicans see that liberal cities are allowing illegal immigrants to disenfranchise American voters by canceling their votes with votes from individuals who are not citizens and entered the U.S. in violation of the law, and the GOP is ready to pass a resolution saying that’s bad. What about passing laws to secure the border and stop illegal immigration? Will the Republicans in Congress vote on funding President Trump’s proposed border wall? Will they enact needed immigration reforms…?”
Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell, who supported extending local voting rights to non-citizens, argued that providing certain groups — including permanent legal residents, visa holders, Temporary Protected Status recipients, and Deferred Action Childhood Arrival recipients — with local voting rights could be a proactive way to empower local immigrant communities which are especially threatened by the current administration’s immigration policies and rhetoric:
“This is an opportunity for us to say, ‘No, we stand with you, we’re listening to you, and we want you to be a part of some of these conversations.”
Of Note: This resolution appears to be a reaction to San Francisco’s 2016 decision to allow noncitizens and unauthorized immigrants to register to vote in school board elections. That decision was meant to reflect that a third of students in public schools in that state have parents or guardians who are in the U.S. illegally, and that those parents and guardians should also have a say in their children’s educations.
Similarly, Chicago and some suburbs of Boston, including Cambridge, have also allowed people to register to vote without providing proof of citizenship beforehand. In Chicago, there is no Illinois state requirement to prove citizenship while registering to vote; so the city is allowing anyone to register to vote as long as they can provide adequate proof of identity.
While the idea of allowing non-citizens to vote may sound outlandish, proponents of the idea point out that from America’s founding up until the 1920s, 40 states and federal territories allowed noncitizens to vote. At that time, noncitizens voted in local, state, and federal elections and were permitted to — and did — hold public offices such as alderman, coroner, and school board member. In fact, for most of U.S. history, voting by noncitizens was the norm, not the exception.
Since 1990, campaigns to expand the vote to noncitizens have been launched in states as diverse as New York, Massachusetts, Washington D.C., California, Maine, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Texas.
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / JasonDoiy)