Monday, April 11, 2011

Why shouldn't non-citizens vote?

It is not generally known that for a good deal of U.S. history immigrants were allowed to vote even before receiving citizenship. This fact makes sense of the fact often mentioned in history books that the political machines in New York City used to greet new arrivals at the dock, help them get settled, help them find work, and then draw on their gratitude when the next elections came along. For some reason, these histories, at least as far as I can remember them, did not draw attention to the fact that this meant people who were not citizens were voting.

This evening I caught a passing mention on C-SPAN that a Ron Hayduk had written a book summarizing the history of non-citizen voting. Since I am very interested in immigration and find the whole concept of an "illegal alien" to be a legal and philosophical abomination, I immediately checked to see if the Corvallis public library has the book---it does not. And when I checked on I found that the book is extraordinarily expensive, about $45, with used copies nearly as expensive.

However I did find a short report in the New York Times which readers of this blog might find interesting for the facts it reports, and it can be read here. Professor Hayduk is quoted in this article, which is about a recent attempt to restore non-citizen voting in New York City.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Paul. The history--and contemporary practice--of voting by non citizen residents in the U.S. is surprising to many. But it is not coincidental -- it could give people ideas!

    You can find out more via the website of the Coalition to Expand Voting Rights at and at, including a summary of the history and contemporary practices -- including new legislation in NYC, passage of legislation to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections in Brookline Mass in 2010 and near passage of two ballot measures that would have done the same (one in San Francisco in 2010 and one in Portland Maine). These efforts are likely to continue, and other jurisdictions may follow suit.

    Ron Hayduk, City University of New York (CUNY).
    Author of "Democracy for All: Restoring Immigrant Voting in the United States (Routledge, 2006)


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