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New York Times article on Voting Rights for non citizens - Adrian Fenty on CNN

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  • Green Latino
    Hi everybody, Here is an article about voting rights for non citizens in the New York Times. We need to be ready for prime time in this issue. Please share
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 9, 2004
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      Hi everybody,
                   Here is an article about voting rights for non citizens in the New York Times. We need to be ready for prime time in this issue. Please share this article with your friends and all. By the way, Councilmember Adrian Fenty Ward 4 will be in CNN tonight at 6:00 PM. Please let me know what you think and what we can do to improve what we are doing. Greetings,
      Mario Cristaldo
      General Coordinator
      (202) 412 2469

      Ron Hayduk <rhayduk@...> wrote:
      From: "Ron Hayduk"
      To: "Immigrant Voting Rights"
      Subject: D.C.
      Date: Mon, 9 Aug 2004 09:29:59 -0400


      August 9, 2004
      Immigrants Raise Call for Right to Be Voters

      WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 - For months, the would-be revolutionaries plotted
      strategy and lobbied local politicians here with the age-old plea, "No
      taxation without representation!" Last month, some of the unlikely
      insurgents - Ethiopian-born restaurateurs, travel agents and real estate
      developers in sober business suits - declared that victory finally seemed
      within reach.

      Five City Council members announced their support for a bill that would
      allow thousands of immigrants to vote in local elections here, placing the
      nation's capital among a handful of cities across the country in the
      forefront of efforts to offer voting rights to noncitizens.

      "It will happen,'' said Tamrat Medhin, a civic activist from Ethiopia who
      lives here. "Don't you believe that if people are working in the community
      and paying taxes, don't you agree that they deserve the opportunity to

      Calling for "democracy for all," immigrants are increasingly pressing for
      the right to vote in municipal elections. In Washington, the proposed bill,
      introduced in July, would allow permanent residents to vote for the mayor
      and members of the school board and City Council.

      In San Francisco, voters will decide in November whether to allow
      noncitizens - including illegal immigrants - to vote in school board
      elections. Efforts to expand the franchise to noncitizens are also bubbling
      up in New York, Connecticut and elsewhere. Several cities, including
      Chicago, and towns like Takoma Park, Md., already allow noncitizens to vote
      in municipal or school elections.

      But in most cities, voting remains a right reserved for citizens, and the
      prospects for the initiatives in Washington and San Francisco remain
      uncertain. The proposals have inspired fierce opposition from critics who
      say the laws would undermine the value of American citizenship and raise
      security concerns in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
      Washington's mayor, Anthony Williams, has expressed his support for
      extending voting rights to permanent residents, but has yet to garner a
      majority of supporters on the 13-member City Council. In San Francisco,
      critics have questioned whether the law would violate the state's

      In this city, where Ethiopian restaurants and El Salvadoran travel agents
      dot many urban streets, advocates argue that permanent residents are paying
      taxes and fighting and dying for the United States as soldiers in Iraq while
      lacking a voice in local government. They describe the ban on immigrant
      voting as akin to the kind of taxation without representation that was a
      major cause of the American Revolution.

      They also note that the United States has a long history of allowing
      noncitizens to vote. Twenty-two states and federal territories at various
      times allowed noncitizens to vote - even as blacks and women were barred
      from the ballot box - in the 1800's and 1900's.

      Concerns about the radicalism of immigrants arriving from southern and
      Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries led states to
      restrict such voting rights. By 1928, voting at every level had been
      restricted to United States citizens. Today, some argue, those rights should
      be restored to noncitizens.

      "They're paying taxes, they're working, they're contributing to our
      prosperity,'' said Jim Graham, the councilman who introduced the bill here.
      "And yet they're not able to exercise the franchise.
      "This is part of our history. A lot of people don't know what the history of
      this nation is in terms of immigrant voting; they don't understand even that
      localities can determine this issue. It's a very healthy discussion.''

      Critics counter that the proposed laws would make citizenship irrelevant and
      pledges of allegiance to the United States meaningless. It is a touchy
      political issue, particularly in an election year when many politicians
      across party lines are lobbying for support from Hispanic voters, and many
      politicians have tried to sidestep it altogether.

      Democrats have most often sponsored the initiatives, but some also oppose
      them. In Washington, where Congress has the right to override city laws,
      some Republicans said they would try to overturn the immigrant voting bill
      if it passed.

      "Is it really too much to ask that American citizenship be a prerequisite
      for voting in American elections?'' Representative Tom Tancredo, Republican
      of Colorado, asked in a letter to members of Congress last month.

      "One of the things that differentiates American citizenship from simple
      residency is the right to vote,'' said Mr. Tancredo, who rallied opposition
      to the bill. "The passage of this measure would not only blur that
      distinction, it would erase it - allowing as many as 40,000 aliens in the
      District of Columbia to vote.''

      In San Francisco, some critics have also argued that the proposals raise
      security concerns. Louise Renne, a former city attorney in San Francisco and
      a longtime critic of the concept, recently raised the question of whether
      terrorists would soon be allowed access to the polls. "If noncitizens can
      vote,'' she asked reporters, "can Osama bin Laden vote in a school

      Advocates for noncitizen voting rights dismiss concerns about threats to
      national security, noting that several countries, including Belgium and
      Ireland, allow noncitizens to vote in local elections. New Zealand allows
      permanent residents to vote in local and national elections.

      They argue that immigrants will still aspire to citizenship because it is
      the only way they can vote in federal elections. And having the right to
      vote, they argue, will help noncitizens feel more politically engaged and
      committed to this country.

      "A lot of communities are not represented by representatives who reflect the
      diversity in their communities and are responsive to their needs,'' said Ron
      Hayduk, a professor of political science at the Borough of Manhattan
      Community College and an advocate for immigrant voting rights. "It raises
      basic fundamental questions about democracy.''

      In Washington, Connie Mann, a 44-year-old permanent resident from Namibia,
      is already dreaming of voting for the mayor. Sergio Luna of Guatemala, a
      community outreach specialist for the city, hopes to improve this city's
      struggling schools, where his son is a student. "If we have the opportunity
      to vote for the school board, the Council and the mayor, we'll be making
      some changes,'' he said.

      Mr. Graham, who was applauded by his Ethiopian supporters last week for
      introducing the voting legislation here, says he believes the bill will
      become law, even if it not this year. He says he needs the support of only
      two more members of the Council and is working to woo them, even if that
      means reintroducing the legislation next year. Lobbying Congress, he said,
      would be the next step. "This is not a 50-yard dash issue,'' he said. "This
      is an issue you just have to keep working on.''

      Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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