Consent by all the Governed: Reenfranchising Noncitizens as Partners in America’s Democracy
Note by Gabriela Evia
From Volume 77, Number 1 (November, 2003)
The United States has been the pioneer of democratic values on the stage of world history for over two hundred years. The foundation of a democracy is the right of the governed to elect their political leaders. As President Lyndon B. Johnson told Congress in 1965, Americans have “‘fought and died for two centuries'” to defend the principle of “‘government by consent of the governed.'”
Despite these democratic values, one particular group in our country is governed but has lost the right to vote – noncitizen legal permanent residents (“LPRs”). Noncitizen LPRs are legal immigrants. They are foreign-born individuals who have been granted legal permanent resident status by the U.S. government. This status allows them to live and work in the country indefinitely. Noncitizen LPRs pay taxes at the local, state, and federal levels, they can serve in the military and are eligible for the draft, and they are subject to all the laws of the United States. Although they have all the political, social, and military obligations of citizens, noncitizen LPRs are no longer allowed to vote in any state due to the recent amendments of state constitutions, which have disenfranchised noncitizens and limited the franchise to U.S. citizens. Prior to this disenfranchisement, noncitizens legally voted in local, state, and national elections for over one hundred years.
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