Professor Hayduk Discusses Voting Rights for Immigrants

Monday, February 12, 2018
Photo of graffiti art with word VOTE

NBC NEWS -- But in fact, though, there is a long tradition of immigrant voting rights in the United States, according to Ron Hayduk, a Political Science professor at San Francisco State and the author of Democracy for All: Restoring Immigrant Voting Rights in the United States. Between 1776 and 1926, Hayduk’s research shows, up to 40 states permitted immigrants to vote in local, state and federal elections. The practice was discontinued because of growing prejudice and anti-immigrant sentiment in the early 20th century — a time that historian Rayford Logan has referred to as the nadir of race relations in the United States.

The argument for allowing immigrants to vote is based in the earliest American arguments for democracy, Hayduk told me. “The revolutionary cry was ‘no taxation without representation.’ And even if you’re undocumented, you can’t get away without paying taxes. The basic idea of democracy is that governments should be accountable to the people, and the way you make it accountable to the people is that you give them the capacity to vote.”

Giving immigrants the vote sounds implausible. But there is a long tradition of immigrant voting rights in the United States.

Hayduk notes that immigrant voting provides other benefits as well. When immigrants can vote in school board elections, for example, they are more involved in the school. Children are more successful when parents participate in their education, and successful children provide both a short and long-term benefit to communities.

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