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 | 
Janine Dove-Rumé
, 
Michel Naumann
, 
Tri Tran

V. Civilisation

Does residence imply local voting rights? The current debates about Residence Citizenship of new migrants in New York1

Linda Chaïb

Résumé

How should foreign residents - the others-be politically incorporated, at local level, when they settle in receiving countries? Foreign residents have several ways to participate in local politics through immigrant or neighborhood organizations, for instance. But do they have the power to elect local political representatives? In the United States, local political membership of foreign residents through the vote is possible, even though rare, which is not the case of other traditional Western countries of immigration. Advocates of the residence citizenship concept, which refers to some aspects of the original definition of citizenship of pre-emergent nation-states, introduce a distinction between national and local elections, by granting local voting rights to foreign residents without asking them to naturalize. According to this proposition, nationality and citizenship are separated, concerning local elections, by underlying residence duration as a major criterion to validate voting rights. In this paper, I seek to analyze the debates that are taking place in New York City. Opponents of local voting rights for foreign residents think that there is a risk of losing the value of American citizenship by getting around loyalty oaths, whereas supporters of residence citizenship consider that it is a relevant means to include all residents in local democracy.

Texte intégral

INTRODUCTION

  • 1 I would like to thank the Center for European Studies (New York University), and in particular Prof (...)

1Today, permanent settlements of foreigners — the others — in receiving countries represent a considerable part of the cities’ populations — up to a quarter of the population in some urban areas. Where is the line between duties and rights of permanent residents in host countries? Should foreign residents be naturalized to be part of the local civic and political life? Or should they be already considered as citizens of the city where they live? Residence citizenship, as a concept, is not new. It partly refers to the original definition of citizenship of pre-emergent nation-states when citizens were considered as the inhabitants of the “cite” who participated to its local politics and sometimes voted according to several criteria except nationality. Under monarchical rule, allegiance, property and permanent residence were key requirements to be citizens and sometimes to vote. With the creation of nation-states in the 19th century, citizenship has been mainly referred to national citizenship.

2Somehow, foreign residents are already included within local and national political communities since they also have certain obligations like national citizens — taxation duties for instance —, and they have several ways to participate in local politics through foreigner or neighborhood organizations. But do they have the power to elect local political representatives? This research looks into one aspect of political citizenship: the question of voting rights, at local level, of new migrant residents. Today, what are the benefits or losses for host societies to give local voting rights to foreign residents? It is necessary to study host societies’ historical, institutional and political elements in order to answer this type of question. In the United States, local political involvement of foreign residents is possible through the vote, which is not the case of other traditional Western countries of immigration such as France or Germany. Residence citizenship is part of current debates on the significance and practice of citizenship. The goal of residence citizenship is mainly to introduce a distinction between national and local elections, by granting local voting rights to foreign residents, without asking them to get naturalized. According to this proposition, nationality and citizenship are separated, concerning local elections, by referring to residence time as a major criterion to validate voting rights. In this paper, I seek to analyze the matter of local voting rights for foreign residents in the American context by providing a brief history of foreigners’ voting rights in the United States first, and then by describing the debates that are taking place in New York City on the subject.

I – A BRIEF HISTORY OF FOREIGNERS’VOTING RIGHTS IN THE UNITED STATES

3The United States defines itself as a country of immigration and local voting rights for non-citizens were a common practice in the past. It is also a federal and decentralized country that was first built by local states; citizenship was thus a matter of local states first.

  • 2 Annick Foucrier., “Immigration et citoyenneté aux Etats-Unis: la dialectique de l’inclusion et de l (...)
  • 3 Ibid, p. 7-8.
  • 4 Nathalie Smith., “A Brief History of Voting Rights in the United States of America”, Cambridge’s Ca (...)
  • 5 Jamin B. Raskin., “Legal Aliens, Local Citizens: The Historical, Constitutional and Theoretical Mea (...)
  • 6 Reed Ueda., “Naturalization and Citizenship”, in Stephen Thernstrom, Ann Orlov, Oscar Handlin (Eds) (...)

4Before American states became united there had been two concurrent systems of naturalization during the colonial period until 1773: British naturalization by the colonial governments and the Crown and local autonomous naturalization by local tribunals. The British Crown’s cancellation of the latter was to constitute later one of the claims included in the American Declaration of Independence.2 After the American Revolution, the oath of allegiance was not expressed to the Crown but to local American Constitutions of the new nation. In the 18th and 19th centuries, non-American white — and sometimes African American — males had the right to vote locally, and in some cases, nationally. They were citizens in the places where they lived and paid taxes, which meant that they could vote. The Confederation Articles did not deal with a federal control on naturalization and citizenship but with the respect of the rights of new citizens in all states, provided that they were citizens of one of the states. But confusion and disagreements between states started to emerge and basic human rights were not respected in some of them. As a consequence, the first federal naturalization laws were debated during the constitutional Convention of the Founding Fathers at the end of the 1780s. The first Naturalization Statute was voted in 1790 and was followed by naturalization laws in 1795, 1798 and 1801. Thus, the federal government started to have some form of control to fight against discrimination and to solve the lack of coherence in citizenship policies of the states. Consequently, in order to become a national citizen and vote at national level, one of the requirements for new migrants has been a five-year residency on the American territory. But one should highlight the fact that, since the birth of the United States, local states have always been autonomous for granting local citizenship including the right to vote for foreigners.3 Usually, the conditions to vote in local states were property qualifications,4 and/or religion and residence.5 Thus, since then, the American legal entry policy and policies of immigration limitations, persecutions and deportations6 have been under the control of the federal government, whereas immigrant political incorporation policies have been local prerogatives.

  • 7 Clifford P. McCue, Dorothy Norris-Tirrell, “The Impact of Immigration Policy on Communities: An Int (...)
  • 8 Donald W. Rogers, “Introduction The Right to Vote in American History”, in Donald W. Rogers (Ed.), (...)
  • 9 Paul Kleppner, “Defining Citizenship: Immigration and the Struggle for Voting Rights in Antebellum (...)
  • 10 Ronald Hayduk, «Democracy for All: Restoring Immigrant Voting Rights in the U. S.”, in New Politica (...)
  • 11 Sophie Body-GEndrot., La société américaine après le 11 septembre, Paris, Presses de Sciences-Po, 2 (...)
  • 12 R. Ueda, op. cit., p. 739.
  • 13 The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act did not give citizenship to people of Chinese origins until 1943 eve (...)
  • 14 Annick Foucrier., op. cit., p. 9-10.
  • 15 See the 19th amendment to the Constitution. But they had the right to vote in some local states bef (...)
  • 16 Nathan Glazer., “Assimilation Today: Is One Identity Enough?” in Tammar Jacoby (Ed.), Reinventing t (...)
  • 17 ASECA (Amiens), La Lettre de la Citoyenneté, mars-avril 2004, n° 68, p. 3.
  • 18 Nancy F. Rytina, Chunnong Saeger., “Naturalizations in the United States: 2004”, http://uscis.gov, (...)
  • 19 Ronald Hayduk., “Non-Citizen Voting: Pipe Dream or Possibility”, Drum Major Institute for Public Po (...)
  • 20 Ronald Hayduk., Democracy for All: Restoring Immigrant Voting Rights in the United States, New York (...)

5Permanent residents’ local voting rights evolved towards inclusion — or the contrary — depending on the interests of the states that were essentially economic, demographic and political.7 In the new states and territories, local suffrage was considered as an incentive to achieve the settlement of new migrants and their contribution to the economic and social building of these territories. Suffrage based on property was gradually eliminated and universal suffrage — for white males only — was implemented at the beginning of the 19th century.8 The inclusion in — or exclusion from — local politics of foreigners varies considerably not only from state to state but also from national and international political contexts. Several periods in American history, like the mid9 and end of the 19th century,10 both World Wars, or more recently after the 9/11 attacks —, have brought forth nationalist and anti-immigrant feelings that notably led to a stricter access to American citizenship, for instance through tougher application tests, and restrictions to civil liberties.11 The anti-immigrant political climate led to a withdrawal of local voting rights for foreign residents by local states in the 20th century: since 1928, no local voting rights for foreign residents have been granted in states’ constitutions. At the same time, it is worth noting, that while American national citizenship was not granted to certain American groups — Native Americans12 and Americans of Chinese origins13 in the 19th century — the federal legislation officially granted citizenship and voting rights to African Americans after American Civil War. The 14th amendment to the Constitution drew a national definition of American citizenship by stating that in case of conflicts, national citizenship is more important than citizenships of states as a last resort. No state can withhold the privileges14 and protections granted to citizens of the United States. In the 20th century, after a century-long struggle, women obtained federal voting rights.15 Today, in spite of a slow process of American citizenship application and because of a diminution of the immigrants’ social rights in some places, the naturalization rate is still very important in the country. Moreover, several countries from Latin America, including Mexico, modified their Constitution in order to favor dual citizenship for their nationals.16 There are about 500,000 naturalizations per year and 640,000 application files are waiting to be examined.17 Many Mexicans, Indians, Philippines, Vietnamese and Chinese have applied.18 Today, more than twelve million migrants are non-citizens in the United States.19 Most of them cannot vote except in places like Maryland. Six municipalities of Maryland have chosen to grant municipal voting and eligibility rights to foreign residents at the beginning of the 1990s — Barnesville, Martin’s Additions, Somerset, Garrett Park, and Chevy Chase Section 3 and Takoma Park.20

  • 21 Information from the New York University Law Students for Human Rights
  • 22 Ronald Hayduk (2006), op. cit., p. 102.
  • 23 Interview with Cheryl Wertz, New York City, July 20 2006
  • 24 Deborah Sontag., “Noncitizens and Right to Vote: Advocates for Immigrants Explore Opening Up Ballot (...)
  • 25 R. Hayduk (2004), op. cit., p 514-515.
  • 26 Interview with Michele Wucker, New York City, July 17 2006
  • 27 Interview with Ronald Hayduk, New York City, July 18 2006

6In New York, the 1777 original Constitution of the state stipulated that “every male inhabitant of full age” and who had the necessary property qualifications enjoyed suffrage rights. At that time, the oath of allegiance was expressed to the State of New York. The 1801 state election law’s goal was to find out voters who did not meet residence or property qualifications; qualified voters had thus to justify their situation when they took their allegiance oath. What is important to underline here is that election reforms concern the State of New York and that there was no requirement implying national citizenship in order to vote. State election law statute was changed again in 1804 for it required eligible voters to be citizens if they wanted to vote. But at that early stage of evolving relations between state and national levels of citizenship, it remained unclear whether voters should be citizens of New York or citizens of the United States.21 Today, according to some researchers, voting rights for immigrant’s campaign can partly be perceived in the larger context of the civil rights movement due to a mobilization in favor of equal rights and social justice. Some African American elected officials support this idea and consider this as a possibility to enlarge civil rights to other populations. The creation of community school boards in New York City occurred in the 1960s, a context of social unrest and civil rights struggle to get more community control, through a decentralization of some government institutions. Each school board could hire superintendents and principals and had funds for programs such as after-school programs. Non-citizens had also voting and eligible rights in Community Development Agencies in charge of managing and distributing antipoverty funds.22 The decentralization of the public school system allowed parents of children who attended public schools to vote in one of the thirty-two school boards of the city. From 1968 to 2002, voting rights and eligibility in New York City school board elections were granted to any parent who had a child in the city’s public schools - provided they had a one-month residence in the city.23 Moreover, this policy included non-citizen parents whether they were legal or not on the territory.24 Chicago followed the example of New York in 1988 and today foreign residents still have these rights in public school boards, which is no longer true in New York because the educational system was reorganized by Mayor Bloomberg in 2002. The reasons that are usually put forward to explain a modification of the state legislation that suppressed school boards are linked to the poor situation of the city s public schools25 and notably to the problems of underperformance, bad test scores and overcrowding.26 In the past, several mayors had already aimed at reforming the public schools system — including the Democrat David Dinkins —, for fear of being accused of passivity.27 Today, there is a specific administration, the mayor-controlled Department of Education composed of nominated members.

7Current New York City debates mainly concern a risk of losing the value of American citizenship by getting around loyalty oaths — according to opponents of local voting rights for foreign residents. By contrast, supporters of these rights think that there is a risk of exclusion of one part of the population and of distorting the initial meaning of citizenship by not expanding it to foreign residents. Should loyalty to receiving countries be tested at local level?

II – THE RE-EMERGENCE OF THE QUESTION OF LOCAL VOTING RIGHTS FOR FOREIGN RESIDENTS: THE CASE OF NEW YORK

  • 28 Sophie Body-Gendrot., The Social Control of Cities? A Comparative Perspective, Oxford (UK), Blackwe (...)
  • 29 John Mollenkopf., Hollow in the Middle: The Rise and Fall of New York City’s Middle Class, Report t (...)
  • 30 Read Saskia Sassen., The Global City, New York, London, Tokyo, Princeton (NJ), Princeton UP, 2nd ed (...)
  • 31 Sophie Body-Gendrot, Les Villes américaines, les politiques urbaines, Paris, Hachette Supérieur, co (...)
  • 32 “The Newest New Yorkers, 2000: Immigrant New York in the New Millenium”, New York City Hall Departm (...)

8In this cosmopolitan and global city of more than eight million inhabitants, one individual out of three is foreign-born and the majority of the population is composed of ethno-racial minorities. Like other American cities, New York has experienced both a ‘white flight’ and an increase in the number of African American and Latino populations from the 1970s onwards.28 Today, the city’s socioeconomic reality is drastically polarized: the discrepancy between the richest and the poorest has continued to grow.29 This can be explained by the fact that advanced economic sectors need both a very high-skilled and a very low-skilled staff.30 The industrial sector has diminished contrary to the tertiary sector: FAIR service jobs – i.e. jobs in finance, advertising, communication, insurance and real estate. But these have not compensated the strong losses of industrial jobs: the unemployment rate in the city was 8.6% in 2005. Generally, new migrants have no favorable socio-economic characteristics. Some live under the poverty line and some work in illegal workshops.31 According to the New York Department of City Planning, recent migrants usually have an economic status that is inferior to the rest of the local population and the figures are different from one ethno-racial group to another. For example, the average income of a Mexican household corresponds to 85% of the one of native New Yorkers (37,700 dollars), and 93% of a Korean household, in comparison to an average income of native New Yorkers. The highest poverty rate is found in Pakistani households (26%), whose family members are generally numerous, followed by Chinese households with a 22% rate.32 Given these socio-economic data regarding newcomers, some advocates of local voting rights for foreign residents consider that new migrants’ concerns would be more acknowledged if they voted.

MOBILIZATION IN FAVOR OF LOCAL VOTING RIGHTS FOR FOREIGN RESIDENTS

THE STATE LEVEL

  • 33 Ronald Hayduk, 2006, op. cit., p. 148-149.
  • 34 Deborah Sontag, op. cit., p. B4.
  • 35 Deborah Sontag, op. cit., p. Β1.

9The growing proportion of immigrants lacking political representation was one of the consequences for the setting of the Task Force on New Americans by the New York State Assembly in 1986. The Task Force, composed of twenty-four members, had the mission to find measures to respond to new migrants’ needs.33 Among their proposals was the necessity to grant local voting rights to foreign residents. Yet, it was not a noticeable issue at the end of the 1980s. This issue started to reemerge in the 1990s, a period when several American cities experienced riots and when there were important flows of new migrants, notably from Latin American and Asian countries, due to international political events and to an acceleration of globalization processes. Following the 1992 riots and demonstrations of Washington Heights, a New York City neighborhood mainly composed of low-waged Dominicans, the twenty-four members of the Task Force on New Americans of the Democrat-controlled State Assembly proposed to introduce a bill to allow municipalities of the state to extend local voting rights to noncitizens.34 At the beginning of the 1990s, about one million of individual immigrants were concerned, that is to say one eighth of the population.35 Local debates in Takoma Park (MA) at the beginning of the 1990s resulted in granting voting rights to noncitizens in municipal elections in 1992. Were New York legislators influenced by the Takoma Park experience? According to them, the idea was that to avoid violence, and thus riots; anger and conflicts should be expressed through voting rather than in the streets. Several elected officials from the African American and Latino state and city caucuses joined immigrant, civil rights and other organizations to support the idea.

  • 36 Ronald Hayduk (2006), op. cit., p. 154.
  • 37 R. Hayduk (2006), op. cit., p. 149-150.

10According to some, the New York State electoral law must be modified to grant local voting rights to non-citizens because the possession of American citizenship requirement is still included in the law. From the 1990s onwards, every proposal has been counteracted by the New York State legislature even though several experts say New York City has a home rule prerogative on this question. In addition of being political, local debates are also legal: the analyses of several lawyers and researchers — lawyers of the city council, those of the Brennan Center for Justice, and those of the New York City Bar Association — all indicate that any modification to allow non-citizens to vote locally does not need to go through a modification of electoral law of the State of New York.’36 Given the fact that the State Senate was then controlled by Republicans, the future of these bills was challenged in the state legislature. For all these reasons and others, these bills have not been voted into laws by the New York State assembly since the early 1990s.37

THE MUNICIPAL LEVEL

  • 38 R. Hayduk (2006), op. cit., p. 150.
  • 39 Mae M. Cheng., “Panel: Let Noncitizens Vote Says Move Would Encourage More Participation in Governm (...)
  • 40 Ronald Hayduk (2006), op. cit., p 152.

11In New York City, lobbying to expand local voting rights to foreigners, and by doing so going around the state legislature, has not diminished since the beginning of the 1990s. Supporters of the idea of “re-enfranchising” foreign residents in New York City, including several legislators, pushed for an extension of local voting rights for new migrants from school board to municipal elections. In 1993, a municipal resolution was put forward by a city councilor, with the support of eleven other councilors, but the resolution was finally stuck in a municipal committee and disappeared.38 The issue of local voting rights for permanent residents reemerged at the beginning of the 2000s. In August 2003, eleven people were appointed by the mayor to compose the city’s Charter Revision Commission which goal was to make the electoral participation increase, notably by introducing the question on nonpartisan elections in the city. Some commissioners recommended a home rule provision to municipalities of the state on this question of local voting rights for non-citizen residents. Out of 3.7 million voters registered in the city of New York, more than a million are not American citizens.39 The commission members also wrote a resolution supporting the idea of granting local voting rights to those who possess the green card, underlying the “No Taxation without Representation” principle referring to the 18th century revolutionary America. Finally, the proposition was dismissed when some lawyers of the commission advocated that this could not be decided unilaterally by the city.40

  • 41 Ronald Hayduk (2006), op. cit., p 152-153.
  • 42 Interview with Ronald Hayduk, New York City, July 18 2006.
  • 43 Cheryl Wertz, Director of Government Access, is notably in charge of coordinating the campaign. She (...)
  • 44 On the left of the political spectrum, Ronald Hayduk has always been interested in the issues of vo (...)
  • 45 Interview with Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Executive Director of the Greater New York Labor Religion Co (...)

12In 2003 and 2004, pro-local voting rights for foreign residents organizations like NICE — New Immigrant Community Empowerment — and Demos — a non partisan public policy group — organized public forums in the city. Led by NICE, the Coalition to Expand Voting Rights that was created at the beginning of 2004, is now composed of elected officials, immigrant rights and civic and civil rights organizations, labor unions, religious groups and individual advocates — whether naturalized or not — and acts at city level in order to get local voting rights for non-citizens. Elected people and personalities of other American localities where this voting issue is being debated attended the meetings. The forums were followed by a significant media coverage that included influential national newspapers, like the New York Times, and smaller local ethnic media. The coalition is now bigger with more than fifty groups and organizes diverse activities such as educating public opinion on this subject and lobbying. They met with about thirty city councilors, the mayor’s bureau staff and elected people from the State assembly. They also arrange neighborhood meetings and press conferences.41 The coalition is multiracial but includes more Hispanics; the city’s highest percentage of non-citizens is represented by Dominicans.42 Civil and immigrant organizations are numerous in the coalition and NICE organization has facilitated its coordination.43 There are also researchers — among them Ronald Hayduk and Michele Wucker44 —, union and religious groups, notably the Greater New York Labor Religion Coalition. This local organization is also part of a national network that works to obtain more rights for immigrants. This is an interfaith workers' rights and economic justice advocacy organization bringing together people from different religious traditions who mostly come from low-waged and immigrant backgrounds: “the working poor”.45 According to several members of the Coalition to Expand Voting Rights, these organizations are powerful, useful and visible vehicles to influence legislators and reaching individual immigrants since the latter are also members of unions, organizations, churches, etc.

  • 46 Jennifer Steinhauer, “Mayor Comments on Vote Issue”, The New York Times, April 13 2004, p. B5.
  • 47 Ronald Hayduk (2006), op. cit., p. 140.
  • 48 Ronald Hayduk (2006), op. cit., p. 161.

13Today, city councilor Bill Perkins46 is taking the lead of the movement to grant local voting rights to permanent residents and has introduced a bill — Intro 628 — in 2005. The coalition worked to publicize and vote the proposition in 2005 — it has organized a political rally and a press conference — and has defined specific criteria to be eligible to local voting rights. Municipal voting rights would be granted to legal foreign migrants residing in the city for at least six months. But the legislation introduction did not succeed; it was proposed at the same time as municipal elections. This legislation project was perceived, by opponents of the proposition, as an element that would strongly influence election results and politics in the city.47 The Coalition and their allies launched a campaign on national day taxation, April 15 2005, while members of the bureau of the mayor declared that the City Council cannot act alone on this subject: the agreement of New Yorkers is necessary, through the organization of a referendum, to modify the municipal charter. The coalition reintroduced legislation in April 2006 for which, out of fifty-one councilors, twelve are still clearly in favor of local voting rights for non-citizens and ten others seem to be in favor of the idea but prefer to wait in order to have more legislative details on the subject before officially expressing themselves.48 The coalition currently needs thirty-five votes of the City Council to override the mayor’s veto.

OPPOSITION TO LOCAL VOTING RIGHTS FOR FOREIGN RESIDENTS

  • 49 In ten years, the total population of the State of New York increased by about one million — from 1 (...)

14Opponents come up with several reasons to justify their opposition to local voting rights for non-citizens. They mainly believe that American citizenship is more important and that everything should be done to help new migrants be naturalized; they think that the decision should be made according to New York State law, otherwise that would be illegal; foreign residents would vote for the Democrats and that the number of non-citizens is so important that it could transform local politics.49

  • 50 According to Mayor Michael Bloomberg: “the essence of citizenship is the right to vote, and you sho (...)
  • 51 Jennifer Steinhauer, op. cit., p. B5.
  • 52 Guillermo Linares is in charge of MOIA commission– Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. Previously, (...)
  • 53 Alexandra Marks, “Should Noncitizens Vote?”, The Christian Science Monitor, April 27 2004
  • 54 Deborah Sontag., op. cit., p B4.
  • 55 Winnie, “New York: Bloomberg Voices His Opposition to Voting by Noncitizens”, The New York Times, A (...)
  • 56 Interview with Cheryl Wertz from NICE, New York City, July 20 2006.

15The New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is opposed to local voting rights for foreign residents.50 He proposes to decrease the number of applicants for American citizenship on waiting lists by reducing the paperwork.51 The mayor also puts forward the absence of legality because he thinks that this issue should be determined at the level of the State of New York and therefore that the city cannot and should not decide on it alone. There are two New York City’s official municipal departments — MOIA and VAC52 — which roles are to respond to basic immigrants’ needs, such as housing or language teaching, and to facilitate their access to American citizenship through naturalization. Some researchers or important representatives of immigration organizations are also opposed to local voting rights for foreign residents. The current executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies — CIS is a Washington D. C. pressure group that works in favor of more restrictions on immigration subjects like the controls at the borders53 — considers that there is a unique citizenship which is the national one. An other leader of a Washington-based organization lobbying for more and stricter immigration controls has a similar view on the issue of local voting rights for foreign residents; according to the executive director of the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR): “no one should be given the franchise without taking the Pledge of Allegiance, [...] If you divorce citizenship and voting, citizenship stops having any meaning at all».54 This opinion is also shared by Michael Long, the New York State Conservative Party President who thinks that citizenship must be deserved and people should work to obtain it. Opposition to grant local voting rights to foreign residents also comes from Democrats: for instance, the current City Council Speaker prefers to encourage naturalization in order to increase the electoral participation instead of granting local voting rights to permanent residents.55 According to certain members of the Coalition to Expand Voting Rights, it is usually difficult to find people who accept to publicly testify against voting rights when debates are organized.56 The argument mostly put forward by opponents of residence citizenship is that there is a danger of giving away the essence of citizenship and that if people are given the right to vote they will not apply for citizenship.

16To sum up the objections raised by opponents of local voting rights for permanent residents, there cannot be a New York City citizenship; there are loyalty problems; it is not legal; the issue is a partisan one and non-citizens can influence the local political agenda.

17Answers to objections by supporters of local voting rights for noncitizens Proponents of local voting rights for non-citizens usually refer to the past and criticize the naturalization backlog - it takes about eleven years to become an American citizen -; in the meantime many people are excluded from the city’s political life. According to several key actors of the campaign to get local voting rights for non-citizens, one of the main obstacles is the public opinion’s lack of information on the subject:

  • 57 Interview with Ronald Hayduk, New York City, July 18 2006. According to Michele Wucker: “it seems t (...)

“Voting rights for non-citizens is perceived as a crazy thing because it is strongly linked to national citizenship in people’s mind. So we often need to provide knowledge and education to people who don’t know the history of these voting rights, and all this takes time. Voting rights have often been considered in gender and racial — i. e. African Americans — terms and less in terms of nationality”.57

  • 58 Interviews with Michele Wucker, New York City, July 17 2006 and with Ronald Hayduk, New York City, (...)
  • 59 Interview with Cheryl Wertz, New York City, July 20 2006.
  • 60 Ronald Hayduk (2006), op. cit., p 146-147.

18Members of the coalition think that public opinion is difficult to evaluate because surveys are expensive and opinions also vary on the way and on who you ask.58 “I think the more people have the information the more they would tend to agree with the idea because it makes sense”, said a key member of the Coalition.59 Is the question of local voting rights for foreign residents a partisan issue? For some, the question of partisanship on this subject cannot be avoided; to others, this question is more complex than it seems to be. It is usually said that immigrants vote for the Democrats and that this fact has a consequence on the debates. According to some researchers, immigrants should not be considered as a homogeneous group regarding their political choices; recent surveys about the 2004 elections showed that if naturalized immigrants vote for the Democratic party as a whole, like New Yorkers, the results also underlined the different political choices of immigrant groups. While 15% of native-born voters chose Georges W. Bush in 2004, 18% of immigrant voters did so. Moreover, 12% of newly naturalized voters were registered as Republicans compared to 10% of native-born city voters and more than a third of New York City Latino voters voted for both Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Republican Governor George Pataki in recent elections; Asian voters are also very likely to vote Republican.60

CONCLUSION

  • 61 Each year, the New York City Immigration History Week is celebrated in the city.

19Since immigration is an important stake in a city that defines itself as a city of immigrants,61 the question of local voting rights for foreign residents is becoming more visible even though it does not currently represent a priority on the local political agenda. In this paper, I partly sought to demonstrate that the issue of political participation through the vote is still perceived on a national basis and on the collective imaginary of the “nation-state”. But American states have the legal prerogative for local voting rights definition and organization. American institutions extended the voting power in favor of foreigners when the priority was to populate the new territories and states and thus attract newcomers. Local — and sometimes national — vote for foreign residents had existed in the past for demographic, economic and political interests of the country, until it generally stopped at the beginning of the twentieth century, for political reasons. Today, foreign residents benefit from local voting rights only in rare cases in the United States. Do foreign residents vote at local level in other countries? In many countries, foreign residents are granted local voting rights and eligibility and debates on this question are particularly strong in Europe where it is possible for nationals of European Union countries — but not for non European Union nationals living in Europe — to vote at municipal and European levels. Out of twenty-five European Union countries, twelve have allowed non European Union nationals to vote in local elections.

Bibliographie

BIBLIOGRAPHY

INTERVIEWS

Interview with Michele Wucker, member of the Coalition to Expand Voting Rights and researcher at World Policy Institute of the New School of Social Science, New York City, July 17 2006

Interview with Onida Coward-Mayers, Executive Director of the New York City Voter Assistance Commission, and Bibi N. Yusuf, Office Manager, New York City, July 18 2006.

Interview with Ronald Hayduk, member of the Coalition to Expand Voting Rights and Professor at City University of New York (CUNY), New York City, July 18 2006

Interview with Rabbi Michael Feinberg, member of the Coalition to Expand Voting Rights and Executive Director of the Greater New York Labor Religion Coalition, New York City, July 20 2006

Interview with Cheryl Wertz, member of the Coalition to Expand Voting Rights and Director of Government Access of New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), New York City, July 20 2006

BOOKS AND ARTICLES

BODY-GENDROT Sophie, The Social Control of Cities? A Comparative Perspective, Oxford, Blackwell, Studies in Urban and Social Change Series, 2000, 286 p.

BODY-GENDROT Sophie, La Société américaine après le 11 septembre., Paris, Presses de Sciences-Po, 2002, coll. La Bibliothèque du Citoyen, 2002, 137 p.

CHENG Mae, “Panel: Let Non-citizens Vote Says Move Would Encourage More Participation in Government”, Newsday, August 23, 2003.

COLLIER Christopher, “The American People as Christian White Men of Property: Suffrage and Elections in Colonial and Early National America”, in Donald W. ROGERS (Ed.), Voting and the Spirit of American Democracy: Essays on the History of Voting and Voting Rights in America, Urbana & Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 1992, pp 19-29.

FOUCRIER Annick, “Immigration et citoyenneté aux Etats-Unis: la dialectique de l’inclusion et de l’exclusion”, RFEA, janvier 1998, n° 75, pp 4-21.

GLAZER Nathan, “Assimilation Today: Is One Identity Enough?”, in Tamar Jacoby (Ed.), Reinventing the Melting-Pot: The New Immigrants and What it Means to be American, New York, Basic Books, 2004, pp 61-73.

HAYDUK Ronald, Democracy for All: Restoring Immigrant Voting Rights in the United States, New York, Routledge, 2006, 250 p.

HAYDUK Ronald, “Democracy for All: Restoring Immigrant Voting Rights in the U. S. New Political Science, Dec. 2004, vol. 26, n° 4, p 499-523

HAYDUK Ronald, Non-Citizen Voting: Pipe Dream or Possibility, Drum Major Institute for Public Policy documentation, 2002.

HU Winnie., “New York: Bloomberg Voices His Opposition to Voting by Non-citizens”, The New York Times, April 10 2004.

KLEPPNER Paul, “Defining Citizenship: Immigration and the Struggle for Voting Rights in Antebellum America”, in Donald W. Rogers (Ed.), Voting and the Spirit of American Democracy: Essays on the History of Voting and Voting Rights in America, Urbana & Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 1992, pp 43-53.

LOVELESS Stephen C., MCCUE Clifford P., SURETTE Raymond B., and al., Immigration and Its Impact on American Cities, Westport (CT), Praeger, 1996, 179 p.

MARKS Alexandra, “Should Non-citizens Vote?”, The Christian Science Monitor, April 27 2004.

MCCUE Clifford P., NORRIS-TIRRELL Dorothy, “The Impact of Immigration Policy on Communities: an Introduction to the Symposium Policy Studies Journal, 2002, vol. 30, n ° 1, pp. 53-146.

RASKIN Jamin B., “Legal Aliens, Local Citizens: The Historical, Constitutional and Theoretical Meanings of Alien Suffrage”, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 1993, 141, pp. 1391-1470.

SMITH Nathalie, “A Brief History of Voting Rights in the United States of America”, Cambridge’s Campaign for Immigrant Voting Rights booklet, 2001, Enclosure 4.

SONTAG Deborah, “Noncitizens and Right to Vote: Advocates for Immigrants Explore Opening Up Balloting”, The New York Times, July 31, 1992, p B4.

STEINHAUER Jennifer, “Mayor Comments on Vote Issue”, The New York Times, April 13 2004, p B5.

UEDA Reed, “Naturalization and Citizenship”, in Stephan Thernstrom, Ann Orlov, Oscar Handlin (Eds), Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, Cambridge (MA), The Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 1980, p. 734-748.

Notes

1 I would like to thank the Center for European Studies (New York University), and in particular Professor Martin Schain, for welcoming me as a visiting researcher in summer 2006.

2 Annick Foucrier., “Immigration et citoyenneté aux Etats-Unis: la dialectique de l’inclusion et de l’exclusion”, RFEA Janvier 1998, n° 75, p 7.

3 Ibid, p. 7-8.

4 Nathalie Smith., “A Brief History of Voting Rights in the United States of America”, Cambridge’s Campaign for Immigrant Voting Rights booklet, 2001, Enclosure 4, p 3.

5 Jamin B. Raskin., “Legal Aliens, Local Citizens: The Historical, Constitutional and Theoretical Meanings of Alien Suffrage, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 1993, 141, p. 1402.

6 Reed Ueda., “Naturalization and Citizenship”, in Stephen Thernstrom, Ann Orlov, Oscar Handlin (Eds), Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, Cambridge (MA), The Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 1980, p. 745.

7 Clifford P. McCue, Dorothy Norris-Tirrell, “The Impact of Immigration Policy on Communities: An Introduction to the Symposium”, Policy Studies Journal, 2002, vol. 30, n° 1, p. 56.

8 Donald W. Rogers, “Introduction The Right to Vote in American History”, in Donald W. Rogers (Ed.), Voting and the Spirit of American Democracy: Essays on the History of Voting and Voting Rights in America, Urbana & Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 1992, pp. 9-10.

9 Paul Kleppner, “Defining Citizenship: Immigration and the Struggle for Voting Rights in Antebellum America”, in Donald W. Rogers (Ed.), Voting and the Spirit of American Democracy: Essays on the History of Voting and Voting Rights in America Urbana & Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 1992, p 48. See also Reed Ueda., “Naturalization and Citizenship”, in Stephen Thernstrom, Ann Orlov, Oscar Handlin (Eds), Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, Cambridge (MA) The Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 1980, p. 738.

10 Ronald Hayduk, «Democracy for All: Restoring Immigrant Voting Rights in the U. S.”, in New Political Science, December 2004, vol. 26, n° 4,, p. 506.

11 Sophie Body-GEndrot., La société américaine après le 11 septembre, Paris, Presses de Sciences-Po, 2002, coll. La Bibliothèque du Citoyen, pp. 21-22.

12 R. Ueda, op. cit., p. 739.

13 The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act did not give citizenship to people of Chinese origins until 1943 even though they were citizens in some states. Ibid, Reed Ueda pp. 740-741.

14 Annick Foucrier., op. cit., p. 9-10.

15 See the 19th amendment to the Constitution. But they had the right to vote in some local states before 1920. Source: Christopher Collier., “The American People as Christian White Men of Property: Suffrage and Elections in Colonial and Early National America”, in Donald W. Rogers (Ed.), Voting and the Spirit of American Democracy: Essays on the History of Voting and Voting Rights in America, Urbana & Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 1992, pp. 22 et 28.

16 Nathan Glazer., “Assimilation Today: Is One Identity Enough?” in Tammar Jacoby (Ed.), Reinventing the Melting-Pot: The New Immigrants and What it Means to be American, New York, Basic Books, 2004, p. 70.

17 ASECA (Amiens), La Lettre de la Citoyenneté, mars-avril 2004, n° 68, p. 3.

18 Nancy F. Rytina, Chunnong Saeger., “Naturalizations in the United States: 2004”, http://uscis.gov, June2005, pp. 1 et 3.

19 Ronald Hayduk., “Non-Citizen Voting: Pipe Dream or Possibility”, Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, October 2002

20 Ronald Hayduk., Democracy for All: Restoring Immigrant Voting Rights in the United States, New York, Routledge, 2006, p. 87.

21 Information from the New York University Law Students for Human Rights

22 Ronald Hayduk (2006), op. cit., p. 102.

23 Interview with Cheryl Wertz, New York City, July 20 2006

24 Deborah Sontag., “Noncitizens and Right to Vote: Advocates for Immigrants Explore Opening Up Balloting”, The New York Times, July 31 1992, p. B4.

25 R. Hayduk (2004), op. cit., p 514-515.

26 Interview with Michele Wucker, New York City, July 17 2006

27 Interview with Ronald Hayduk, New York City, July 18 2006

28 Sophie Body-Gendrot., The Social Control of Cities? A Comparative Perspective, Oxford (UK), Blackwell Publishers, Studies in Urban and Social Change Series, 2000 p 108.

29 John Mollenkopf., Hollow in the Middle: The Rise and Fall of New York City’s Middle Class, Report to the New York City Council, December 1997, in Sophie Body-Gendrot., The Social Control of Cities? A Comparative Perspective, Oxford (UK), Blackwell Publishers, Studies in Urban and Social Change Series, 2000, p 108.

30 Read Saskia Sassen., The Global City, New York, London, Tokyo, Princeton (NJ), Princeton UP, 2nd ed, 2001

31 Sophie Body-Gendrot, Les Villes américaines, les politiques urbaines, Paris, Hachette Supérieur, coll. Les Fondamentaux, 1997, p 137.

32 “The Newest New Yorkers, 2000: Immigrant New York in the New Millenium”, New York City Hall Department of City Planning, October 2004, 43.

33 Ronald Hayduk, 2006, op. cit., p. 148-149.

34 Deborah Sontag, op. cit., p. B4.

35 Deborah Sontag, op. cit., p. Β1.

36 Ronald Hayduk (2006), op. cit., p. 154.

37 R. Hayduk (2006), op. cit., p. 149-150.

38 R. Hayduk (2006), op. cit., p. 150.

39 Mae M. Cheng., “Panel: Let Noncitizens Vote Says Move Would Encourage More Participation in Government”, Newsday, August 23, 2003.

40 Ronald Hayduk (2006), op. cit., p 152.

41 Ronald Hayduk (2006), op. cit., p 152-153.

42 Interview with Ronald Hayduk, New York City, July 18 2006.

43 Cheryl Wertz, Director of Government Access, is notably in charge of coordinating the campaign. She has been working at NICE since 2003 and her main role is to design and run programs to connect local community members with local government officials. Interview with Cheryl Wertz, New York City, July 20 2006.

44 On the left of the political spectrum, Ronald Hayduk has always been interested in the issues of voting rights and social justice. In 1993, he was the City of New York Coordinator of the Voter Assistance Commission. He is now a key actor in the campaign to get local voting rights for foreign residents and a professor of political sciences at City University of New York. Michele Wucker is a researcher at the World Policy Institute of the New School of Social Science.

45 Interview with Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Executive Director of the Greater New York Labor Religion Coalition, New York City, July 20 2006.

46 Jennifer Steinhauer, “Mayor Comments on Vote Issue”, The New York Times, April 13 2004, p. B5.

47 Ronald Hayduk (2006), op. cit., p. 140.

48 Ronald Hayduk (2006), op. cit., p. 161.

49 In ten years, the total population of the State of New York increased by about one million — from 17,990,455 in 1990 to 18,976,457 in 2000. This includes the growth of foreign-born population mostly composed of no citizens: about 46% of them became naturalized compared, for example, to nearly 80% in 1980. One of the reasons usually put forward to explain this situation is the time it takes to become naturalized. In 2000, the adult population of the state was composed of 12. 8% of non-citizens and several parts of the state are now composed of more than 15% of adult non-citizens. While about one million white people migrated outside the city, the incoming population was mostly composed of colored people, notably new migrants. For the city of New York, this tendency is stronger: in some neighborhoods, the proportion of non-citizens represents about a quarter of the total population and four districts of Queens are composed of more than 35% of the total population, the percentage is 25 in four districts of Brooklyn and 25 in three districts of Manhattan. Source: Ronald Hayduk (2006), pp 140-141.

50 According to Mayor Michael Bloomberg: “the essence of citizenship is the right to vote, and you should go about becoming a citizen before you get the right to vote.» In Winnie HU, “New York, Bloomberg Voices His Opposition to Voting by Noncitizens”, The New York Times, April 10, 2004.

51 Jennifer Steinhauer, op. cit., p. B5.

52 Guillermo Linares is in charge of MOIA commission– Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. Previously, Mr Linares had been an immigrant rights activist and he was also the first Dominican individual to be elected in community school boards in the 1990s. The New York City Voter Assistance Commission was created as a result of a charter revision in 1988 and it must report to several members of both City Council and mayoral appointees. Interview with Onida Coward-Mayers, Executive Director of the NYC Voter Assistance Commission, and Bibi N. Yusuf, Office Manager, New York City, July 18 2006. Both women are naturalized; they are organizing citizenship days partly to help new migrants fill citizenship applications.

53 Alexandra Marks, “Should Noncitizens Vote?”, The Christian Science Monitor, April 27 2004

54 Deborah Sontag., op. cit., p B4.

55 Winnie, “New York: Bloomberg Voices His Opposition to Voting by Noncitizens”, The New York Times, April 10, 2004 and Ronald Hayduk (2006), p 155.

56 Interview with Cheryl Wertz from NICE, New York City, July 20 2006.

57 Interview with Ronald Hayduk, New York City, July 18 2006. According to Michele Wucker: “it seems to be a new idea even though practised in the United States in the past; local voting rights are good for the whole community at large”. Interview with Michele Wucker, New York City, July 17 2006.

58 Interviews with Michele Wucker, New York City, July 17 2006 and with Ronald Hayduk, New York City, July 18 2006.

59 Interview with Cheryl Wertz, New York City, July 20 2006.

60 Ronald Hayduk (2006), op. cit., p 146-147.

61 Each year, the New York City Immigration History Week is celebrated in the city.

Auteur

Université de Rouen

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2008

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