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Daniel Dromm’s view on “voting rights”

NOTE: These are the opinions of the writer.

Councilman Daniel Dromm

To the Editor:

It is time for our evolving democracy to embrace voting rights in local elections for all residents. We are all stakeholders in our community and should have a say in important local issues. In the words of the Revolutionary patriots who put their lives on the line for the freedoms we enjoy today, “No taxation without representation.”

 Our democracy is becoming ever more inclusive, but we still have a long way to go. Over the years, we have recognized the right of African Americans, women, and others to vote. Even so, this progress has not yet extended to all residents. Tax paying residents who do not yet have citizenship cannot vote, even in local elections.

For much of our nation’s history, this was not always the case. There have been at least twenty states that did not restrict state or local voting based on citizenship. Here in the state of New York, there was no such requirement for voting in state elections until the early 1800s. More recently, New York City allowed all parents of public school children to vote for their school boards from 1969 until 2003, when the school boards were abolished.

 Under our current laws, one in five adult New York City residents cannot vote because they are not yet citizens. This prohibition stands in stark contrast to the ability of our great democracy to grow and evolve along with our society. In my district, over 65% of the residents are immigrants, many of whom do not have a voice in decisions that most directly impact their daily lives. These community members have, for example, no right to vote on matters concerning the education of their children, the safety of their neighborhoods, or the future of communities. A system where the overwhelming majority of people are disenfranchised is unfair, undemocratic, and un-American.

 We are a city of immigrants. Everyone who lives in New York is a vital member of our community. Immigrants have built our neighborhoods and communities by paying taxes, supporting and creating local businesses, and contributing to our rich heritage and culture. More importantly, immigrants are, and always have been, our colleagues, neighbors, friends, and families.

 Extending voting rights has another practical benefit. Including immigrants in the democratic process will help integrate them into our communities and better prepare them for when they do become citizens. If someone feels they have a say in what happens, they are more likely to care for their community. I want to see immigrants integrated into the wider community, not alienated as they are under current law. Moreover, elected officials will be more accountable when more of their constituents can vote.

 New York has always been a beacon for both immigrants and democracy. This is why we should lead the way in ensuring that our non-citizen community members can exercise the right to vote in local elections. Many of us vote because we want to participate in the decisions that allow our city to grow and prosper. I believe it is important for all of us to make these decisions together. Immigrant or American born, we each have a valuable voice and when all of us are permitted to engage in the political process our communities become stronger.

Daniel Dromm

New York City Council Member, 25th District

Chair, Immigration Committee

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11 Responses »

  1. In other words, sneak in the country illegally and get to vote. Hey, can I hop the next plane to France or Mexico or just about any other country and get to choose their leaders too? I didn’t think so. Some politicians will do anything to scrounge up an election victory, American sovereignty and citizenship be damned.

  2. Speaking of voting rights, how about the voting rights of NY State military personnel risking life and limb serving the country who were just disenfranchised out of their votes? Where’s the outrage over that? What about the voting rights of people in Nevada whose votes are being cancelled out in what looks like deliberate voter fraud. What about the voting rights of the people intimidated outside the polling station in Philadelphia in ’08 by baton wielding men?

    Let’s get out priorities in order.

  3. Concilman Dromm, like many politicians today, is well meaning but does not fully understand the significance of “No taxation without representation”.

    This slogan was used by colonial Americans, subjects of King George III, against the British Crown in response to a series of taxes passed by the British Parliament, in which the colonies were not directly represented. (The Crown argued that the House of Commons provided them virtual representation.) These British subjects were CITIZENS of Great Britain and if they met voting requirements were able to participate in their local elections for assemblies and councils. Citizenship alone did not guarantee voting rights and as a result many colonists paid taxes levied by their local assemblies, but did not have the right to vote in elections for those assemblies.

    This was not a cry for everyone who paid any kind of tax to have the right to vote. It was a demand that the colonies be represented in the Parliament through their current election procedures. The closest analogy today would be if American citizens were able to vote in state and local elections, but unable to elect their federal representatives, who then voted to tax them for the federal government’s benefit.

    In the early 1800′s many states clarified their voting requirements. In NY all men of age who met a property requirement and had sworn an allegiance to the state were allowed to vote. In 1804 a citizenship requirement was added, but at that time the definition of citizen was still evolving in our new country and largely meant a citizen of the state. As time went on, further clarifications were made that generally allowed more people to vote. If states did not restrict voting on the basis of citizenship it was because the definition of citizen had not been fully established. This came with the ratification of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution in 1868.

    There is an easy solution to the dilemma these residents of the city face. Become a citizen of the United States of America as the many millions of immigrants did who made our nation great.

  4. I would like to address some of the misinformation found in the comments of “get_to_the_point” and “PatriotTourist.”

    “In other words, sneak in the country illegally and get to vote.”

    Voting rights for LEGAL permanent residents and others here LEGALLY. Do you really think an undocumented residents are going to put their names on a roll of voters? Get real.

    “Hey, can I hop the next plane to France or Mexico or just about any other country and get to choose their leaders too? I didn’t think so.”

    Umm, actually there are a host of countries that recognize voting rights for all residents, not just citizens, at some level of government.

    “Some politicians will do anything to scrounge up an election victory, American sovereignty and citizenship be damned.”

    What are you talking about? How is American sovereignty and citizenship “damned”? You buying cheap goods from China is doing more to erode American sovereignty than is allowing local residents to have a say in running their city.

    “Speaking of voting rights, how about the voting rights of NY State military personnel ….”

    Again, what are you talking about? How do these issues affect allowing local residents to vote?

    PatriotTourist wrote: “These British subjects were CITIZENS of Great Britain and if they met voting requirements were able to participate in their local elections for assemblies and councils.”

    You are trying to give a history lesson, but you contradict yourself. The colonists were subjects of the British Crown, not citizens. There was not even the modern concept of citizenship at that time, as you yourself point out. As for the rest of your accoount, it supports Council Member Dromm’s use of the slogan “no taxation without representation.” He does not appear to be saying that the current situation is exactly the same as the late 18th century. The point is “if you pay, you should have a say.”

    “There is an easy solution to the dilemma these residents of the city face. Become a citizen of the United States of America as the many millions of immigrants did who made our nation great.”

    That’s what many are trying to do, but the process to become a citizen takes a LONG time. They should be able to vote in local matters in the meantime.

  5. Becoming a citizen should be a priority for anyone who has a genuine interest for the country they are residing in. It is difficult to learn a new language but being able to work hard and achieve citizenship carries more weight when it was accomplished by over coming difficulties. Anything worth having is worth working for.

  6. exactly, what is to point of becoming a citizen if legal aliens are granted all of the rights / privelidges of true citizenship. They should be applauded for going throught the rigirous process of becoming a US citizen & rewarded w/ voting rights once that (I’m sure quite long & tedious) process is complete. While they are awaiting citizenship legal aliens use public services (schools, roads, etc) like everyone else & should pay taxes.

  7. @ A Tarlow

    You are 100% right.

    The process of becoming a citizen is long and tedious. They play by the rules, pay the fees, wait patiently, deal with surly bureaucrats and respect immigration law. It is a slap in the face to these decent men and women every time some hack politician lets someone jump the queue in front of them or give away something they spent years honestly trying to earn.

  8. “The colonists were subjects of the British Crown, not citizens. There was not even the modern concept of citizenship at that time, as you yourself point out.”

    Would you argue, then, that today’s subjects of the British Crown are not citizens of the United Kingdom? We now use the terms interchangeably, even if they did not then, which was what I was doing in my post.

    “As for the rest of your accoount, it supports Council Member Dromm’s use of the slogan “no taxation without representation.” He does not appear to be saying that the current situation is exactly the same as the late 18th century. The point is “if you pay, you should have a say.””

    You must not have read my post thoroughly. Most people in the colonies did not have the right to vote in local elections yet recognized that their colonial assemblies passed laws governing their behavior. In NY to vote one had to be a free man with either an estate valued at 40 pounds or more or a free man who practiced one of many recognized trades. Slaves, indentured servants, tenant farmers, women, and others did not vote yet did not object to the authority of their local assemblies. There is absolutely no historic precedent for people to vote in local elections without some type of restriction.

    In addition, those voting requirements encouraged newcomers to become landowners or tradesmen, which added to the prosperity of the colony.

    “That’s what many are trying to do, but the process to become a citizen takes a LONG time. They should be able to vote in local matters in the meantime.”

    How would this be managed? A period of time that one can vote until becoming a citizen? And if one does not become a citizen, what then, are the votes cast during that time rescinded?

    Although I do not agree with it I have no objection to the phrase “if you pay you should have a say”, only to equating it to early protests over taxation.

  9. I have noticed that almost every post on this page is an undereducated gesture of some form or another. A company called Pearson Operating for the government out Lawrence, Kansas is Prime example of how hard they have made it to get citizenship in this country and those who meet the requirements are being neglected on waiting lists that stretch out for years to come.

    America’s colonies and the Pioneers who started this country were formed by immigrants that befriended the Native people of WHAT IS ONLY OUR COUNTRY TODAY and then slaughtered them in a violent abuse of power.
    Had they not first been befriended the Indians, starting with the pilgrims they would have been thrown back to the shore and arrowed off, not even knowing what hit them.

    History proves nothing any of you can say with too much pride will hold any true value: get_to_the_point and Victor are prime examples, need I elborate? Remember there is a big difference between immigrants and illegal immigrants. So just Remember that. Many immigrants without citizenship come here to go to college and end up making babies and starting busnesses.

    I have a long list of books you should go read, none of which have any political meaning.

    This is off the subject but the corporate world has surpressed free energy devices so we keep having to pay to fill ther pockets. Perpetual motion home generators exist today and for every one part enery input five parts energy output is produced.

    What is water??? H2O: Hydrogen and oxygen, two very explosive forms of gas that when when burned together turn back into water.
    With electrolysis, hydrogen and oxygen can be separated and power a vehicle for up to 100 miles per gallon at 26 times more powerful than any petrolium we can produce. Stan Myer a very healthy and brilliant inventor/Genious was poisoned in 1998 by arab oil companies that offered him over a billion for his water powered car. He said no way this is for the people. What a shame that even Arabs have more power than we do in our own country.

    If we want to make a real change, those of us entitled to vote should put a stop to these corporations controling the energy in this country. That, I believe, is a great place to start making a difference cause I’m calling bullishit on the ethics of this country, especially in the medical world where a poor familily doesnt even have the option of getting their dying son on the waitlist for a transplant even if they find a perfect match.

  10. Councilman is a typical demagogue whose only goal is to stay on the City Council. For that he’ll do and say anything, it seems. Without any regard to our laws. That’s coming from a first generation immigrant, who came here legally, 20 years ago, and waited for his citizenship to get the right to vote.

  11. I never heard a more inept, absurd and outrageous proposal in my entire life. I am European citizen, legally coming and residing in the US/ NYC. Over my lifetime I never heard any nation or party in a nation to make such proposal. In Europe one would end up in prison just for making such claim! I hope Americans will understand the insanity of the Democratic Party and will vote different in 2012 too! If no consider moving to Canada or EU for life in NYC is already bellow any standards because of illegals!

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