From the New York Times opinion section, a very clever op-ed designed to get NYT subscribers nodding along and saying, “Why, of course!” Admittedly, rather like Steve Goodman and David Allan Coe’s “You Never Even Called Me by My Name,” to be the perfect NYT op-ed, it would need to add references to transphobia, redlining, and black women’s hair. But it’s one heckuva an effort.
July 28, 2021
By Atossa Araxia Abrahamian
Atossa Araxia Abrahamian (@atossaaraxia) is the author of “The Cosmopolites: The Coming of the Global Citizen.” …
Abrahamian was born in Canada and grew up in Switzerland. Her parents, who are Iranians of Armenian and Russian descent, worked for the United Nations. She holds Swiss, Canadian and Iranian citizenship …
Back to the NYT:
This essay is part of a series exploring bold ideas to revitalize and renew the American experiment. Read more about this project in a note from Ezekiel Kweku, Opinion’s politics editor.
Washingtonians love to complain about taxation without representation. But for me and my fellow noncitizens
You aren’t a noncitizen, you are a citizen of 3 foreign countries. And you want to vote here without becoming an American citizen.
, it is a fact of political life that we submit to unquestioningly year after year, primary after primary, presidential election after presidential election. Nearly 15 million people living legally in the United States, most of whom contribute as much as any natural-born American to this country’s civic, cultural and economic life, don’t have a say in matters of politics and policy because we — resident foreign nationals, or “aliens” as we are sometimes called — cannot vote.
Considering the Supreme Court’s recent decision undermining voting rights, and Republicans’ efforts to suppress, redistrict and manipulate their way to electoral security, it’s time for Democrats to radically expand the electorate. Proposing federal legislation to give millions of young people and essential workers a clear road to citizenship is a good start. But there’s another measure that lawmakers both in Washington and state capitals should put in place: lifting voting restrictions on legal residents who aren’t citizens — people with green cards, people here on work visas, and those who arrived in the country as children and are still waiting for permanent papers.
Expanding the franchise in this way would give American democracy new life, restore immigrants’ trust in government and send a powerful message of inclusion to the rest of the world.
It’s easy to assume that restricting the franchise to citizens is an age-old, nonnegotiable fact. But it’s actually a relatively recent convention and a political choice.
It’s socially constructed!
Early in the United States’ history, voting was a function not of national citizenship but of gender, race and class. As a result, white male landowners of all nationalities were encouraged to play an active role in shaping American democracy, while women and poor, Indigenous and enslaved people could not. That wholesale discrimination is unquestionably worse than excluding resident foreigners from the polls, but the point is that history shows how readily voting laws can be altered — and that restrictive ones tend not to age well.
It’s like racism. American citizens are on the wrong side of history. In the future, when the USA has been renamed something less discriminatory-sounding, such as Power Mall One, people will look back with horror on when only Americans were allowed to vote in America.
Another misconception is that citizen voting rights have always been the prerogative of the federal government. In fact, states have largely decided who had a say in local, state and national elections. Arkansas was the last state to eliminate noncitizen voting in 1926, and it wasn’t until 1996 that Congress doubled down with the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which made voting in federal elections while foreign — already not permitted because of state-level rules — a criminal, and deportable, offense. (This means that congressional Democrats working on immigration and election reform can reverse the 1996 sanctions the same way they voted them in.)
The strongest case for noncitizen voting today is representation: The more voters show up to the polls, the more accurately elections reflect peoples’ desires.
Similarly, shoplifting makes shoplifters happier, and they are people too.
The United States already has plenty of institutions that account for noncitizens: The census aims to reach all residents because it believes everyone, even aliens, matters. Corporations enjoy free speech and legal personhood — and they’re not even people.
Glenn Weyl is probably right now inspired to dream up an explanation for why Google should get to cast 100 million votes for President.
Would it be such a stretch to give noncitizen residents a say in who gets elected to their state legislature, Congress or the White House?
What’s more, allowing noncitizens to vote in federal, state and municipal elections would help revitalize American democracy at a time when enthusiasm and trust are lacking. …
Democrats are likely to be the biggest beneficiaries of this change — at least at first. But it could have interesting ripple effects: Elected Republicans might be induced to appeal to a more diverse constituency or perhaps to enthuse their constituents so deeply that they, too, start to vote in greater numbers.
Or maybe we’ll just disenfranchise everybody who voted for Trump.
It’s also just good civics: Allowing people to vote gives them even more of a sense of investment in their towns, cities, communities and country. There’s a detachment that comes with not being able to vote in the place where you live. Concerns about mixed loyalties, meanwhile, are misplaced.
Mis placed, I tell you. For example, you never, ever hear immigrants lecturing us on why immigrants should get more power or why America must let in more of their cousins. And who has ever heard of Cubans, Armenians, Venezuelans, Jews, or Taiwanese trying to influence American foreign policy?
The United States not only allows dual citizenship but also allows dual citizens to vote — and from abroad. Is there any reason to think resident foreigners should be less represented?
After all, everybody in America thinks dual citizens voting in two countries is an absolutely swell idea, which is why you hear about Afroyim v. Rusk as often as Brown v Board of Education.
… And what better way to learn about American life than to play an active role in deciding its elections?
… Last fall, I grew so frustrated that I started mailing ballots to my hometown in Switzerland.
… I hope that Democrats seize their chance, and realize the power and the enthusiasm of their potential constituents. They — and we — will not regret it.
This kind of thing is persuasive in today’s zeitgeist. I mean who could imagine that the US government exists for any other purpose than to inclusively foster and facilitate the ongoing Scramble for America among the seven billion non-Americans?
Whoever heard of a thing called The Preamble?
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.