Where Do We Draw The Line?

No seriously, I want to know. I do not pretend to have the answer. Some questions are so complex that simply chattering away on a (usually) less than one thousand word blog post just will not do it, but they require discussion anyway. Such is the case with a proposal in NYC to let non-citizens vote in municipal elections.

On the one side of the debate you  have the very obvious, and very convincing, argument that voting is a privilege and responsibility that goes hand in hand with citizenship. If you do not want to go through the effort of being a US citizen, maybe you should not be taking part in one of most important aspects of it: choosing who will represent you. Yes, the barriers to citizenship are onerous, and need to be reformed, but this seems like a back door way of doing so, and in a way that goes too far. It is granting de facto citizenship to people who have not been granted the real thing, and that seems dishonest on so many levels.

On the other hand, however, there is a certain amount of sense to letting municipalities decide this for themselves. So long as they are willing to accept the financial burden of setting up separate polling stations, separate ballots, and all the other infrastructure, maybe they should be allowed to do that. If a majority of the people in NYC have no problem with this, than maybe it should go ahead. These are people, after all, who pay city and state taxes, who often pay income taxes, and often pay into our SUNY and CUNY systems.

There is no easy answer to this. I will admit that I stand adamant against immigrants who have not been naturalized being allowed to vote in Federal elections. No one who is not a citizen should wield the ability to change our Constitution, which indirectly being able to vote for a Senator, or Member of the House of Representatives gives you. If someone has been living in say, my hometown of Brockport, for a decade, working paying their way,and being affected by the decisions of our mayor and board of trustees, than maybe they should get a say in who sits in those offices.

So many of our problems are too complicated to just dig in our heels and answer with a unequivical “no” or “yes.” I see it though, a knee jerk response on both sides and too few want to realize how nuanced this, and other issues facing us are. We are sometimes faced with simpler problems, to be sure, and too often those are not handled as expediently, and as justly, as they ought to. What is right and what is wrong here is harder to see though, and I hope both sides take a step back to consider.


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