Non-Citizens Voting:

A comment on the census / illegal aliens thread asked whether any states allow noncitizens to vote. I don't think they generally do that now, though some municipalities might. But apparently they used to do it in the past. Here's what I blogged on the subject seven years ago:

1. I generally oppose noncitizens' voting at the state and federal level, and where taxes or criminal laws are concerned, but in some contexts -- for instance, the internal governance of a government body, such as a law school -- belonging to the specific community (e.g., being a law professor) might be more important than belonging to the national community. More broadly, the idea of noncitizens voting wasn't as outrageous as some suggested. (Some have even argued that noncitizen voting is actually prohibited by the constitution; I think that's not so.)

2. A friend of mine -- a leading election law expert, who I'd say is considerably more on the Right than on the Left -- wrote something on an academic discussion list about the history of noncitizen voting, and I got his permission to pass it along:

As a historical matter, non-citizens were routinely allowed to vote in state and local elections at the close of the 18th century (provided they met the other significant restrictions of the time, i.e. male, property ownership, etc.). Indeed, states often offered this benefit as a way to help attract immigrants, who were seen as economically beneficial.

In the early 19th century, even as the franchise was rapidly expanded for citizens, there was a trend to limit immigrant voting. However, this trend reversed again after the Civil War, in part due to the service of immigrants in both Northern and Southern armies during the war, and by the 1890s about half the states allowed non-citizens to vote.

The racist and nativist philosophy of the progressive movement fed hostility to non-citizen voting, and was augmented by the assassination of President McKinley by an immigrant, and finally the "Red Scare" of Woodrow Wilson and Mitchell Palmer after WWI. The last state to abolish immigrant voting was Arkansas, in 1926.

As a constitutional matter, in Skafte v. Rorex, 553 P.2d 830 (1976), the Colorado Supreme Court found no constitutional right for permanent resident aliens to vote. The U.S. Supreme Court has not specifically ruled on it, but has suggested that citizenship with respect to voting is not a suspect class subject to strict scrutiny. Hill v. Stone, 421 U.S. 289 (1975); Sugarman v. Dougall, 413 U.S. 634 (1973).

The justification, of course, is that because non-citizens have not chosen to join the body politic (especially given that in the U.S., it is pretty easy to do so), they therefore have not shown an interest in the long term welfare of that polis, and so should not vote. The flip side is that they are subject to the draft, pay taxes, etc., like the rest of us.