New York Times article on Voting Rights for non citizens - Adrian Fenty on CNN
- 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 CristaldoGeneral Coordinator(202) 412 2469
Ron Hayduk <rhayduk@...> wrote:
From: "Ron Hayduk"
To: "Immigrant Voting Rights"
Date: Mon, 9 Aug 2004 09:29:59 -0400
August 9, 2004
Immigrants Raise Call for Right to Be Voters
By RACHEL L. SWARNS
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
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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