Political Rights in the Age of Migration: Lessons from the United States
- 514 Downloads
Voting is reserved for citizens, right? No. It is not widely known that immigrants, or noncitizens, currently vote in local elections in Chicago and Maryland. Moreover, campaigns to expand the franchise to noncitizens have been launched in at least a dozen other jurisdictions from coast to coast since 1990, including New York, Massachusetts, Washington D.C., California, Maine, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Texas. These contemporary practices have their roots in another little-known fact: for most of US history—from the founding until the 1920s—noncitizens voted in 40 states and federal territories in local, state, and even federal elections. Moreover, noncitizens were permitted to—and did—hold public office such as alderman, coroner, and school board member. For most of America’s history and in the vast majority of the USA, voting by noncitizens was the norm, not the exception. These policies reflect the impact of massive demographic shifts and the spread of democratic ideas. Noncitizens pay taxes, own businesses and homes, send their children to public schools, and can be drafted or serve in the military, yet proposals to grant them voting rights are often met with great resistance. But in a country where “no taxation without representation” was once a rallying cry for revolution, such a proposition is not, after all, so outlandish. This essay examines the politics and practices of immigrant voting in the USA, chronicling the rise and fall—and reemergence—of immigrant voting. In addition, this essay looks at the arguments for and against noncitizen voting and its impact and on policy and American political development.
KeywordsImmigrant voting Political rights Noncitizens Immigrant voting Alien suffrage Local citizenship Immmigrant incorporation Political incorporation Urban politics
- Allen, H. W., & Allen, K. W. (1981). Voter fraud and data validity. In J. Clubb, W. H. Flanigan, & N. Zingale (Eds.), Analyzing electoral history. Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
- Avila, J. (2003). Political apartheid in California: consequences of excluding a growing noncitizen population. Latino policy and issues brief, #9. UCLA: Chicano Studies Research Center.Google Scholar
- Burnham, W. D. (1974). Theory and voting research: some comments on converse “Change in the American Electorate. American Political Science Review, 68, 3.Google Scholar
- Capps, R., Fix, M., Ost J, Reardon-Anderson J., Passel J. S. (2004). The health and well-being of young children of immigrants. Report. Washington: Urban Institute, http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/311139_ChildrenImmigrants.pdf. Accessed 29 March 2014.
- Coll, K. (2010). Remaking citizenship: Latina immigrants and new American politics. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
- Coll, K. (2011). Citizenship acts and immigrant voting rights movements in the US. Citizenship Studies, 15(8), 993–1010.Google Scholar
- Converse, P. E. (1972). Change in the American electorate. In The human meaning of social change, edited by Angus Campbell and Philip Converse. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
- Earnest, D. (2008). Old nations, new voters: nationalism, transnationalism, and democracy in the era of global migration. New York: SUNY.Google Scholar
- Gonzalez-Barrera, A., & Lopez, M. H. (2013). A demographic portrait of Mexican-origin Hispanics in the United States. Pew Research Hispanic Center. http://www.pewhispanic.org/2013/05/01/a-demographic-portrait-of-mexican-origin-hispanics-in-the-united-states/. Accessed 29 March 2014.
- Harris, J. P. (1929). Registration of voters in the United States. Baltimore: The Lord Baltimore.Google Scholar
- Hayduk, R. (2006). Democracy for all: restoring immigrant voting in the United States. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Hayduk, R. (2005). Gatekeepers to the franchise: shaping election administration in New York. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
- Ignatiev, N. (1995). How the Irish became white. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Keyssar, A. (2000). The right to vote: the contested history of democracy in the United States. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- Kleppner, P. (1982). Who voted? The dynamics of electoral turnout. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
- Minnite, L. (2010). The myth of voter fraud. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
- Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State (1849). Minnesota Territorial Government Act, ch. 121, sec. 5, 9 stat. 403, 405. http://www.sos.state.mn.us/student/act1849.pdf. Accessed 2 June 2005.
- Kini, T. (2005). Sharing the vote: noncitizen voting rights in local school board elections. California Law Review 93.Google Scholar
- Migration Policy Institute (2013). Data hub, various fact sheets. http://www.migrationinformation.org/datahub/state4.cfm?ID=US. Accessed 2 June 2013.
- Piven, F. F., & Cloward, R. (2000). Why Americans still don’t vote: and why politicians want to keep it that way. Boston: Random House.Google Scholar
- Rosberg, G. (1977). Aliens and equal protection: why not the right to vote? Michigan Law Review 75, 1092–1136.Google Scholar
- Rosenstone, S. J., & Hansen, J. M. (1993). Mobilization, participation, and d emocracy in America. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
- Schattschneider, E. E. (1960). The semisovereign people. New York: Holt, Rinhart and Winston.Google Scholar
- Smith, R. (1997). Civic ideals: conflicting visions of citizenship in U.S. history. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
- Sontag, D. (1992). Noncitizens and right to vote. New York Times, p. A1.Google Scholar
- Tienda, M. (2002). Demography and the social contract. Demography, 39(4), 587–616.Google Scholar
- U.S. Department of Commerce (2013). The diversifying electorate—voting rates by race and Hispanic origin in 2012. Thom file, CPS. http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/socdemo/voting/. Accessed 3 June 2013.
- Urban Institute (2002). Immigrant well-being in New York and Los Angeles. http://www.urban.org/immigrants/index.cfm.
- Wilkinson, R., & Pickett, K. (2009). The sprit level: why greater equality makes societies stronger. New York: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar