UPDATE: Since this story has been published, it has transpired that the City Council was wrong in their understanding of the charter (which was changed in June), meaning that they actually required a supermajority for this to pass. The vote was six short of a supermajority, thus the measure did not pass.
Ask most Americans what it means to be a citizen, and you’ll hear about liberty and the rights to live, pursue happiness, and to vote for our own government. Many will balance that with the responsibilities inherent to those rights, but nearly everyone will at least mention liberty and the right to vote. Unfortunately for the citizens of College Park, Maryland, that right to vote has now been extended to all non-citizens – that’s right, even “undocumented immigrants.”
Voting Rights for Non-Citizens in the United States
The movement to grant non-citizens the right to vote is not new. In the 1874 U.S. Supreme Court case Minor v Happersett, which determined that the Missouri law forbidding women from voting was not unconstitutional, the Court noted that “citizenship has not in all cases been made a condition precedent to the enjoyment of the right of suffrage.” The decision allowed men of foreign birth in Missouri who had declared the intention to become citizens to vote under some circumstances.
It was 1996 before any law barred non-citizens from voting in federal elections – though it has been prohibited in all state elections since Arkansas became the last to outlaw the practice in 1926. Many localities, however, have decided otherwise. After Tuesday’s city council decision, College Park joins the ranks of ten other Maryland communities as the only ones in the nation to allow non-citizen voting in local elections. San Francisco will join that list for school board elections beginning in 2018.
Heated Debate in College Park
While those in favor of non-citizen voting call this measure “inclusive” and claim hundreds of supporters in the area, the vote and the debate were far from uneventful. Fox News reports:
“The reality is allowing all people to vote in municipal elections is going to make College Park more inclusive, and that has been the history of voting rights expansion in the United States and what has happened in our neighbors in Maryland who have expanded voting rights to non-U.S. citizens,” said Todd Larson, who is in favor of the proposal.
The idea of “inclusiveness” was not shared by all.
“Although you come up here and you say that there are hundreds of citizens and residents of College Park that are for this charter, I can tell you that there are thousands against it,” said Beth Debrosky, who is against non-citizen voting. “Voting is a right of the citizens. It’s plain and clear. It’s constitutional. It’s also written at the state level and it also belongs at the local level.”
The council was originally scheduled to vote on the issue in August but had to postpone due to threats of violence. It was an often-heated discussion; one man was called a Nazi while waiting for his turn to speak out against the proposal.
The Rights and Responsibilities of the U.S. Citizen
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services lists the following rights for citizens – both native born and naturalized:
- Freedom to express yourself.
- Freedom to worship as you wish.
- Right to a prompt, fair trial by jury.
- Right to vote in elections for public officials.
- Right to apply for federal employment requiring U.S. citizenship.
- Right to run for elected office
- Freedom to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Those familiar with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights will notice a few missing there, but that’s the general idea. They also list the following responsibilities:
- Support and defend the Constitution.
- Stay informed of the issues affecting your community.
- Participate in the democratic process.
- Respect and obey federal, state, and local laws.
- Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others.
- Participate in your local community.
- Pay income and other taxes honestly, and on time, to federal, state, and local authorities.
- Serve on a jury when called upon.
- Defend the country if the need should arise.
Practicing all of these responsibilities helps ensure an informed voter deeply invested in preserving liberty for posterity. Sure, the government doesn’t enforce participation in any but a handful of those (obedience to the law, taxation, jury duty, and the draft), but they’re still seen as the duties that ostensibly protect our rights for generations to come.
Granting Voting Rights to Non-Citizens is Unfair to Naturalized Citizens
Naturalized citizens – those Americans who immigrated here from other parts of the world and put in the work and jumped through the hoops required to become citizens – deserve these rights. They have earned the rights of citizenship more so even than many who were born here, though not quite so much as the ones who put their lives on the line – from the nation’s founding to today – to protect them.
The “undocumented immigrants” the left likes to refer to are illegal aliens. They’ve bypassed the legal route to citizenship to get here, and every benefit we award them – from welfare to voting rights – is a slap in the face to those who chose to honor the law.
Granting Voting Rights to Non-Citizens is Dangerous to All Citizens
Far more importantly, giving voting rights to non-citizens is dangerous. Actual U.S. citizens are expected to perform each of the responsibilities listed above and required by law to observe at least some of them. Illegal aliens aren’t necessarily beholden to most of these responsibilities. They don’t have to worry about jury duty, defending the nation, or upholding the Constitution. Pay taxes? Respect the law? Some will, sure – but considering that all illegal aliens had to willfully break the law to earn that title, expecting the majority to respect the law is a joke at best.
Granting voting rights to these people means putting future policy decisions the hands of those most likely to vote away the distinction of citizenship and immigration and border security requirements. There’s also a better than even chance that they’ll vote for more government benefits for themselves and other illegals – all on the dime of tax paying citizens and those legally working to become citizens.