Why shouldn’t non-citizens vote, too?

February 23, 2017

THANKS TO SocialistWorker.org for exposing the absurd claims by Trump that he would have won the popular vote without "millions" of non-citizens voting ("Trump's 'voter fraud' fraud won't silence us").

As many commentators have pointed out, the real scandal is that millions of people in the U.S. have lost their voting rights: prisoners, felons and those excluded by voter suppression laws. Trump, of course, will never be concerned with this, since those kept from voting are unlikely to be his supporters.

But this raises other questions. What is wrong with all U.S. residents being able to vote? Why should people who work here, pay taxes here, raise their kids here and contribute to the U.S. economy not be able to influence its laws and policies? Why does it seem like common sense to so many that only citizens get to vote? Why should anyone think that voting by non-citizens, even if it had happened, was a problem?

A real democracy would allow voting by all residents. Excluding millions from the electorate because of arbitrary criteria like nation of birth is an anti-democratic travesty. In fact, for much of U.S. history, non-citizens could vote in many local and state elections. According to Wikipedia, "By 1900, nearly half of the states and territories had some experience with voting by aliens, and for some the experience lasted more than half a century."

Image from SocialistWorker.org

The article goes on to note that the bias against immigrant rights grew in the early 20th century, leading to a change in laws. According to political scientist Leon Aylsworth, "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."

The movement for immigrant rights faces many challenges today, including opposition and repression from the Bigot in Chief. Supporters of immigrant rights, of course, oppose deportations, and call for the right of immigrants to stay in the U.S. with full legal rights.

This would improve conditions for an oppressed and super-exploited section of the workforce and therefore raise conditions for all workers. It would also undercut appeals to bigotry and nationalism that divide workers against each other. We also demand a quick and easy road to U.S. citizenship for those who want it.

And voting rights for all residents in the U.S.--whether citizens or not--should be one of our demands as well!
Steve Leigh, Seattle

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