Should legal non-citizens be allowed to vote?

March 18, 2004, midnight | By Yicong Liu | 16 years, 10 months ago

YES: All residents should have a voice

In the recent Board of Education election, Valerie Ervin won the District Four seat by 12,260 votes. There are roughly 148,000 non-citizens in Montgomery County, enough to have changed the results. Under most U.S. laws, legal non-citizens, or documented immigrants with permanent residence in the U.S., are not allowed to vote. Some want to extend suffrage to resident aliens, while others still believe that only citizens should have the right to vote.

The only real difference between legal non-citizens and native-born citizens is classification. Immigrants abide by the same laws, pay the same taxes and participate in the same community events. They are prospective citizens capable of casting educated ballots for their future country.

Legal non-citizens must fulfill all other duties of a citizen including paying taxes, abiding by U.S. laws and serving in military drafts. Current naturalization laws require applicants to supply proof of five years of tax payments before earning their citizenship. Taxing these individuals and requiring them to obey laws without giving them a voice in the lawmaking process is a violation of U.S. values. It is taxation without representation. In the U.S., children of undocumented immigrants have the right to attend public schools. Parents of these foreign-born children should have a say in school-board rulings and decisions about their children's education regardless of their citizenship status.

In Montgomery County, non-citizens represent 15 percent of the total population. The constitution contains no restriction on the rights of legal non-citizens to vote, and decisions on suffrage are made at the state, city or county level. In 1991, the city of Takoma Park became the first and only Maryland district to extend voting rights to documented non-citizens. A similar policy should be adopted by Montgomery County to take into account its 148,000 non-citizens. These people could have affected the results in the 2004 Board of Education elections for District Four, where candidate Valerie Ervin beat Sheldon Fishman by a small margin of 12,260 votes.

One of the greatest fears of allowing legal non-citizens to vote is the possibility that many are not capable of making informed choices. By assuming that these foreign-born individuals cannot handle voting because of factors such as language barriers, America ignores those who are just as competent as U.S. citizens. There is a broad spectrum of political activity in both populations. For example, the Chinese Student Protection Act of 1992 granted residency to nationals of China in order to protect Chinese students. Those granted U.S. residency because of this act were educated individuals, concerned with national issues, and as a result were seeking refuge in this country.

Furthermore, enfranchising this population does not necessarily mean an increase in uneducated votes. Those with less political savvy can still choose not to cast their ballots. In the 2000 presidential election, roughly 45.3 percent of people did not vote, 17.6 percent of who were legal non-citizens. Extending the right to vote will help in expanding the voter base and in better representing a democratic majority.

Legal non-citizens are people who are here and intend to stay. They should have a voice in the legislation of the country they live in.

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Yicong Liu. Yicong Liu is a junior in the magnet program at Blair high school. She enjoys the many (I mean many) wonderful things in life, but mostly the fundamentals: food, sleep and fun. During the hectic school week, Yicong can be found staring at her computer … More »

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