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August 9, 2004
Immigrants Want The Vote Without The Work

The New York Times runs a story today on efforts by immigration activists to allow non-citizens to vote in American elections -- local elections to start:

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 vote?''

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.

If immigrants want the vote, they have a well-documented legal path to do so: become an American citizen. "Taxation without representation" only demonstrates a complete lack of historical intelligence on the struggle of the American colonies. No one in the colonies had representation in Parliament. The argument in the eighteenth century had to do with Parliament passing special taxes on colonials without the colonies having even a part in the debate. It had nothing to do with immigrants not being able to vote in elections - it had everything to do with colonials not being allowed to elect their own representatives to Parliament in order to at least have a voice in tax policy.

It's exactly this ignorance of American political development that naturalization is intended to correct. Instead, immigrants want to be granted the franchise without lifting a finger for it.

Plus, no one addresses the difficulty in allowing immigrants to vote in local elections but excluding them from state and national elections. Will Washington require proof of citizenship at the polls for certain elections? Will they stop people from voting if they cannot produce a birth certificate or naturalization papers? If so, you can bet your last dollar that the uproar they cause in doing so will make the debate over Florida in 2000 sound like a college glee club concert. States have trouble funding the transition from paper to higher-tech balloting technologies now. How will they finance two sets of voter rolls, one for local elections and another for all others?

I'm not anti-immigrant; as the descendant of immigrants on all sides of my ancestry (only third-generation on one descent), I believe that controlled immigration to continue to be a huge benefit to America. However, the new immigrants need to understand that this is the land of opportunity, not the land of handouts. America has plenty of blessings for those who wish to work for them, just as my ancestors did, and naturalization is no insurmountable barrier for those who wish to participate in our political processes.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 9, 2004 10:08 AM

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Tracked on August 9, 2004 11:42 AM

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