July 29, 2021

"The strongest case for noncitizen voting today is representation: The more voters show up to the polls, the more accurately elections reflect peoples’ desires."

From "There Is No Good Reason You Should Have to Be a Citizen to Vote" by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian (NYT), who favors "lifting voting restrictions on legal residents who aren’t citizens — people with green cards, people here on work visas, and those who arrived in the country as children and are still waiting for permanent papers." 

The proposition quoted in the post title is untrue, but it's a widely held belief, that it's better to have more people voting. But every person who votes offsets someone else's vote — up to the point where you have the voters who provide the margin of victory and determine the outcome. It might feel nice to see that a lot of people voted, but each person who shouldn't be voting vote — put to the side the question who "shouldn't" be voting — can be paired with someone who voted for the other candidate, and those 2, taken together, don't affect the outcome. 

Then you can't say the more voters, "the more accurately elections reflect peoples’ desires." The sneaky thing about that phrase is "peoples'." Who are "the people"? Argue about that. I'm not engaging with that question. Go ahead and think about whether noncitizen residents with green cards or citizen nonresidents with dual citizenship should be participating in producing the outcome. All I want is recognition that it is wrong to say that the more voters, the more accurate the outcome.

Have you ever walked to the polls with somebody who you knew was going to vote for the candidate you were going to vote against? I have. And it's quite obvious, when you do that, that it makes no difference whether the 2 of you go through with the voting activity or whether you walk past the polling place and go get an ice cream cone and talk about the weather. 

Have you ever declined to go for that walk to the polling place when you knew your voting companion was going to vote for the candidate that you, if you went along, could not bring yourself to vote for? I have. And maybe I could refuse to think about it — but I'm not that kind of person — but it's painfully obvious to me that by failing to cancel that my companion's vote, I left a vote for his candidate uncancelled. And what does that say about the "peoples' desires"? My nonvoting had an effect. It expressed my desire, a weaker desire than the desire of the person whose vote I did not cancel.


Ann Althouse said...

Temujin writes:

"There is zero argument for non-citizens voting in our elections. No borders, no clean elections, no country. It's not difficult math.

"As for voting when you know someone else is taking the opposite position, I typically find a person I know, who I know has the 'other' or as I like to think of it, the wrong view on things. And I pick one of these people out. Then I go to the polls knowing my vote is canceling out their vote. I consider it sacrificing for the country's good. And I hope that there are more of us, so that when the first line of us sacrifices our vote, taking out the other's votes, there are enough reinforcements coming up behind us to win the day.

"Seems like it usually works unless the other side finds ways to make up votes or get truckloads of non-citizens or non-registered citizens to the polls. That changes the math."

Ann Althouse said...

David writes:

"I always consider my vote to be my own, unsullied and unaffected by anyone else's. The vote cancelling argument is technically true, but it shifts the perception of how much power our vote has based on our assumptions.

"I'm reminded of a 25 year old Dilbert cartoon:


"This is obviously a ridiculous case, but there are a lot of people around me who either don't vote or don't vote the way I think, and I don't know about it. The obnoxious guy in the office break room may talk loudly in one direction and vote quietly the other. The woman in the next cubicle may be here on visa. If I let my assumptions of who they are and who they are voting for keep me from the ballot box I've cancelled my own vote. What's more I did it entirely within my own head.

"That's backwards. Within my own head, my vote should always be weighted higher than anyone else's because I know my vote and there is a nonzero chance I am wrong about theirs. "

Ann Althouse said...

That Dilbert cartoon is perfect.

That's exactly the idea I mean to express. The dog figured out a way to indirectly vote but talking Dilbert into not voting so that the 2 votes could be offset.

Ann Althouse said...

R.T. O'Dactyl writes:

"Can you see the slippery slope?

"First there's "lifting voting restrictions on legal residents who aren’t citizens." Then "It's unfair to exclude Dreamers, who have lived virtually their entire lives here, in what they regard as their country, although *technically* they aren't citizens." Then it's "My parents are good people; just because they're citizens of Ruritania isn't a good reason to exclude them from voting, when they've been here as long as I have." Then "Well yes, my Uncle Boris still lives in Ruritania, but why should that make a difference? Aren't borders artificial, arbitrary things? He's family!"

"That's a reductio ad absurdum satire of course. Right? ... Right?"

Ann Althouse said...

Charles writes:

"“Have you ever walked to the polls with somebody who you knew was going to vote for the candidate you were going to vote against? I have. And it's quite obvious, when you do that, that it makes no difference whether the 2 of you go through with the voting activity or whether you walk past the polling place and go get an ice cream cone and talk about the weather.”

"I’ve never done that. But I can’t ever think of a time when I’ve gone to a polling place where there was just one thing on the ballot. It’s possible, that there might have been a time when I voted on just one proposal, ordinarily a very local matter. An ordinance, or a millage proposal or something like that. Never have I seen an election where we were voting on candidates for only one public office.

"In that regard, the idea of two companion voters canceling each other when they disagree about a single office seems almost incomprehensible. Unless they disagreed on candidates for 3, or 5, or a dozen or more offices. Otherwise, their voting would be meaningful."

I'll respond:

I'm aware of all that, but for simplicity's sake, left it out of the post. At the time when I didn't even go to the polls, there was nothing else competitive that mattered. Otherwise, I would have gone, voted on the things that mattered and registered my abstention by leaving a blank or maybe writing in the name of some admired person.

Ann Althouse said...

Walker house writes:

"After working at a voting poll for the interminable 3 week long early voting period in November ‘20, I have done a 360 to this kind of thinking. The number of barely sentient people dragged in by adult children, of non English speakers who not only need help working the ballot machine but who obviously have no idea what the hell is going on…is shocking. Let’s reframe the discussion of “voting rights” to “voting duties.” So no, I don’t think everyone has a right to vote. You shouldn’t have a right to vote if you’ve done zero research and need a family member to mark your ballot. You shouldn’t be able to vote if you have no idea who is on the ballot and need to ask the poll worker who to vote for. It’s pathetic. And it all benefits democrats."

Ann Althouse said...

Hal writes:

"This seems semi-related to the "you should be able to vote near where
you work" complaint.

"I work in a different state (county, city, school district, etc.) from
the one in which I legally reside and in which I am registered to vote.
I do not expect to be able to vote in that state's elections.

"I'm guessing this issue is very common everywhere there is a large
metropolitan area that either straddles or borders a state line."

Ann Althouse said...

Joe writes:

"I get pretty depressed thinking about my vote being cancelled out by the guy living on the street in San Francisco. The same guy who shits on the sidewalk and smokes crack wherever he damn well pleases. The guy who will never pay taxes and who receives nothing but handouts and sympathy from governments at all levels. The guy who catcalls and leers at my 14-year-old niece as he and his stoned buddies watch us walking from the restaurant to the theater to see a play that she has been looking forward to for a year.

"I suppose my only comfort is he is very unlikely to vote. But with the magic of vote harvesting, liberal activists can collect his vote and submit it on his behalf...and it's all legal. So yeah, my vote means pretty much nothing except maybe at the local level. I haven't felt like my senators or member of congress has represented my views for decades."

Ann Althouse said...

Jack writes:

"There is no principle behind the left’s arguments on voting. They are nakedly self-serving arguments to facilitate election victory by the left. Make no mistake, their arguments would be the reverse if non-citizen voting helped the political right.

"BTW: Putting this in The NY Times with that heading is just another signal of the newspaper’s activism for the left."

Ann Althouse said...

Joseph writes:

"It's instructive that the author of this piece is a senior editor at The Nation, and holds Swiss, Canadian and Iranian citizenship, per our good friends at Wikipedia."

Ann Althouse said...

Balfegor writes:

"I think there's strong arguments against allowing noncitizens resident in the US to vote in Federal elections (excepting possibly our noncitizen colonial subjects from American Samoa and maybe a few other remnants of our Pacific empire), those being more or less the same arguments against allowing foreigners to donate to political candidates, just more direct. The federal government controls foreign policy, after all. Citizenship isn't perfectly tailored to the risk here -- there's plenty of people born in the US to foreign parents and then raised entirely abroad who have no loyalty or emotional attachment to the US whatsoever, any more than a ship has to Liberia or any other flag of convenience -- but it is at least a loose fit.

"The more local the elections get, though, the more open I would be to allowing noncitizen participation. For instance, if it's a school board election, I'm in favour of letting all adult legal residents vote, regardless of citizenship status. At the state level, I am open to the argument, although state governments do have direct contacts abroad (e.g. all those state-run trade offices in China, trade missions by governors etc.) so I would still lean against allowing foreigners to vote."

Ann Althouse said...

Charles writes:

"No-excuse absentee voting seems to be just the thing for you. Does your state have it? Would you speak out in favor of no-excuse absentee voting if it were proposed? I’m not even so sure that you’d need “no-excuse” absentee voting. If your employment keeps you away from polls all day on election day, in practically every state that I am aware of you would qualify for an “excused” absentee ballot."

Ann Althouse said...

Gregory writes:

The positions taken by radical leftists increasingly mock themselves. Is this essay not tantamount to an admission that their ideas will never prevail in an honest debate? It’s really demoralizing to read garbage like this, or the 1619 project, in the NY Times. It makes me angry and sad - not so much that they don’t have a shred of intellectual integrity anymore, but rather that they celebrate it so openly.

While this essay is fundamentally dishonest and transparently stupid, it is not wholly without value. That is, it inspires any number of ideas for other essays I am quite certain the Times would be willing to publish. For instance:

"There Is No Good Reason Blind People Shouldn’t Drive"

"There Is No Good Reason Anyone Should Work for a Living"

"There Is No Good Reason to Ever Fly Coach"

"There Is No Good Reason You’re not a Professional Athlete"

"There Is No Good Reason Stupid People Shouldn’t be Doctors"

"There Is No Good Reason You Should Have to Pay for Things You Want”

The possibilities are endless!

Ann Althouse said...

Brian writes:

This proposal might make sense if
a) government had NO ability to take or make money
b) government somehow HAD to take money equally from ALL people

BUT! since neither is the case; what we are talking about, is voting to take money from Peter, to pay Paul. If more than 50% of the people are Paul... Peter is out of luck.
WHY should people that don't pay taxes get to vote?
Because they are Citizens, and thus are susceptible to the draft? (if they are men?)
Because of the simple fact that they are Citizens?

Let's do a thought experiment!
You weren't born here; you don't speak the language, you don't pay taxes, you're not even eligible for a potential draft; you neither understand nor like the Constitutional system we have....
BUT!!! Our Country's actions; should be decided (in part) by YOUR desires???

fun fact about the author
Atossa Araxia Abrahamian was born in Canada and grew up in Switzerland. She holds Swiss, Canadian and Iranian citizenship.

IF she wants a say in Governmental decisions, maybe she should go to Iran? She's a citizen THERE! I'm SURE that they'll eagerly listen to her.

Ann Althouse said...

Fouquieria writes:

Joe writes:

"I get pretty depressed thinking about my vote being cancelled out by the guy living on the street in San Francisco”

Yes, Joe, so do I, and I live in San Francisco. The vote harvesting bit is a real issue. There are so many large businesses in the city who cater to the ever-increasing vagrant population that it would not surprise me in the least that they’re all committing some act of vote harvesting, with the intent (wholly misguided in my opinion) of “helping”.

But at this point it doesn’t matter. In person or by mail it’s useless. My vote is now either likely to get screwed by the voting machines at the polling places or go the way of the landfill, courtesy of the spies and collaborators in the USPS.

Ann Althouse said...

Iain writes:

:Before I became a citizen, when I lived happily with my green card, obeyed the law, and paid my taxes, I sometimes thought that I should be able to vote because I was a taxpayer, at least in local elections or tax refernda. But by that logic I should have been able to vote in two states, since I lived in one and worked in another. And why not a third state where I owned a second home? And why not a fourth where I drove frequently between my houses and paid lots of tolls and sales and gas taxes? Nope, it makes no sense. Where would we draw the line, and by what logic? Pretty soon we would see, per Dilbert, politicians pandering to the canine vote.

"Others have spoken to your vote cancellation argument, but I'll just say I think voting matters. It seems to me that the minimal step of becoming a citizen is not much to ask to permit one to vote. It isn't hard: the test is pathetically easy and the time commitment small. But it bespeaks at least a bare minimum of civic understanding and commitment. Yes, I know plenty of citizens lack civic understanding and commitment, but an awful lot of those folks exercise their right not to vote.

"At the presidential level, I have never yet voted for the candidate that won my state's electoral votes. I'm fine with that. I'm not fussed by the reality that another citizen who disagrees with me may "cancel" my vote; after all, I'm cancelling his too. But I am irked by the idea that someone who hasn't exercised the barest minimum of commitment to the society in which he lives should have that opportunity."