Monday, July 22, 2013

Non-Citizens Used To Vote in USA - The GOP's Immigration Pickle

From what I understand listening and reading the news, the GOP is in a pickle. 

The GOP isn't doing well at the voting booth with Latinos who make up a huge portion of immigrants, including undocumented folks residing in the USA now who would like their status legitimized.

The GOP is split on the concept in general.  On one extreme are businesses who employ immigrants and want their workers to be able to stay in the US.  On the other end are party members who want to send 'them; all back.

On the one hand the GOP want to look supportive of immigration, one of the most important Latino issues, in order to attract more Latino voters.  On the other hand, they are afraid that if Latino immigrants get citizenship, they will overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.

So, their answer seems to be to have immigration reform that does not include citizenship.

That's where I want to start this.

Needing to be a citizen to vote is not a US Constitutional requirement!

Voting has NOT always been tied to citizenship.  In the beginning, except for the Native Americans, who were not allowed to be citizens,  most people were from somewhere else. 

Robert Caro, in his first Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Power Broker, describes Tammany Hall, New York's Democratic political machine, greeting immigrants as they land. 
The wheels of the Tammany war machine might be greased with money, but the machine was pulled by men, the men who voted Democratic themselves, the men who rounded up newly arrived immigrants and brought them in to be registered Democratic, the men who during election campaigns rang doorbells and distributed literature to those immigrants and to their own friends and neighbors and on Election Day, shepherded them to the polls to vote Democratic. (p. 71)
If you're paying close attention, you'll notice that they get them off the ships and sign them up to vote.  They could do that because citizenship was not a requirement to vote in those days.

From Wikipedia:
Over 40 states or territories, including colonies before the Declaration of Independence, have at some time admitted aliens voting rights for some or all elections.[1][2][3][4] In 1874, the Supreme Court in Minor v. Happersett noted that "citizenship has not in all cases been made a condition precedent to the enjoyment of the right of suffrage. Thus, in Missouri, persons of foreign birth, who have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, may under certain circumstances vote."[5]
By 1900, nearly one-half of the states and territories had some experience with voting by aliens, and for some the experience lasted more than half a century.[6] At the turn of the twentieth century, anti-immigration feeling ran very high, and Alabama stopped allowing aliens to vote by way of a constitutional change in 1901; Colorado followed suit in 1902, Wisconsin in 1908, and Oregon in 1914.[7] Just as the nationalism unleashed by the War of 1812 helped to reverse the alien suffrage policies inherited from the late eighteenth century, World War I caused a sweeping retreat from the progressive alien suffrage policies of the late nineteenth century.[8] In 1918, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota all changed their constitutions to purge alien suffrage, and Texas ended the practice of non-citizen voting in primary elections by statute.[9] Indiana and Texas joined the trend in 1921, followed by Mississippi in 1924 and, finally, Arkansas in 1926.[10] In 1931, political scientist Leon Aylsworth noted: "For the first time in over a hundred years, a national election was held in 1928 in which no alien in any state had the right to cast a vote for a candidate for any office -- national, state, or local."[11]
From what I can tell, Federal law didn't ban aliens from voting in federal elections until recently in the United States.  Derek T. Muller writes in INVISIBLE FEDERALISM AND THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE in the Arizona State Law Journal:
“Alien suffrage was quite common during the nineteenth century, coming to a peak in 1875 when twenty-two states and territories granted aliens the right to vote.”237 That ended in the 1920s, at which point all states required citizenship as a condition to voter eligibility.238 Today, every state prohibits noncitizens from voting in federal elections.239 Federal law, too,  prohibits aliens from voting in federal elections.240 There are, however, jurisdictions that allow,241 or seek to allow,242 noncitizens to vote in local elections. And as resident aliens have a significant interest in the locales where they reside, and are subject to other political obligations like taxation, there have been particularly strong arguments in favor of extending suffrage to at least a set of them.243
Footnote 240 suggests that the federal ban on aliens voting in federal elections didn't come until 1996:
240.  18 U.S.C. § 611(a) (2006) (“It shall be unlawful for any alien to vote in any election held solely or in part for the purpose of electing a candidate for [federal office].”) (enacted as the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104- 208, 100 Stat. 3009–3546).

 Migration Information Source tells us more about the immigrants:
Most of the estimated 12 million legal permanent residents cannot vote although they may work, pay taxes, send their children to school, and serve in the military. This gap between the electorate and the total population raises important issues about government accountability to residents who cannot vote, and the civic responsibilities newcomers are expected to assume toward their communities.

In response, several communities across the United States are seeking to grant non-citizen residents the right to vote in municipal and/or school board elections. Most Americans are unaware that non-citizen voting was widespread in the United States for the first 150 years of its history. From 1776 until 1926, 22 states and federal territories allowed non-citizens to vote in local, state, and even federal elections but gradually repealed this right. The US Constitution gives states and municipalities the right to decide who is eligible to vote. 
Those arguing for non-citizens to vote say that if they pay taxes and have a long term stake in the community, they should be allowed to vote, based on the colonists' argument about taxation without representation. 

I guess we'll just have to see how long Koch (and other) money can continue to stir up enough people to fear and anger on this issue to keep the rising number of immigrants (not to mention all those people who stopped voting because they thought it didn't matter) from voting in their own best interests. 

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