I was initially angry to read an article in the New York Post titled 'New bill could give illegal aliens voting rights in New York City'. Here's an excerpt.
New legislation is being pushed that would give illegal aliens the right to vote in New York City’s 2017 elections for mayor, comptroller, public advocate, borough president and City Council, The Post has learned.
The proposal — which is winning support from the city’s black and Hispanic activists — was recently discussed at a Black and Latino Legislative Caucus event in Albany.
There's more at the link.
This seems ridiculous to me. After all, illegal aliens are, by definition, criminals. Their very presence in New York City is a crime; so why would anyone trust, or want, a criminal to vote for the office-holders that would influence his or her arrest and/or trial and/or punishment for their crime?
However, on further research, it turns out that voting rights are a murky area in US history. For example, according to Wikipedia, the last state to ban non-citizens from voting (Arkansas) did so as late as 1926. Prior to that, there are numerous examples where non-citizens were admitted to the franchise, some local, some state-wide, some even in national elections. Furthermore, the Atlantic has an in-depth examination of the Constitutional issues surrounding voting, and comes to some interesting conclusions. For example:
... courts and citizens remain oddly ambivalent about it; it is common to regard voting as a "privilege," an incident of citizenship granted to some but not all. The "privilege" over the years has been made dependent on literacy, or long residency in a community, or ability to prove identity, or lack of a criminal past. None of these conditions would be allowed to restrict free speech, or freedom from "unreasonable" searches, or the right to counsel, even though each of those rights is mentioned once in the Constitution. The right to vote of citizens of the United States remains a kind of stepchild in the family of American rights, perhaps because it is not listed in the Bill of Rights, and perhaps because Americans still retain the Framers' ambivalence about democracy.
Again, more at the link.
I find the argument frustrating, because I don't want to agree with it: but I'm forced to admit on a purely logical basis that if the right to vote can be and has been taken away from US citizens on various grounds, why should it not be extended to others - even non-citizens - on other grounds? If that's done by legal means, passed by those elected to express the 'will of the people' . . . where do we stand?
Perhaps this is an issue best pursued as an amendment to the Constitution. Perhaps it's time to finally nail down precisely who is eligible to vote in the USA, so that efforts such as that in New York City can be scuppered before they start. Why not agree on a common standard - and why did the Founding Fathers not do so at the beginning of our Republic? Please let us know your thoughts in Comments.