Say No to non-citizen voting in Multnomah County

By William MacKenzie

The proposal by Multnomah County’s Charter Review Committee to allow non-citizens to vote in county elections is a sign not just of progressive overreach, but of moral rot.

The idea makes a mockery of citizenship, removing the long-standing linkage between the responsibilities of citizenship and voting rights. And while the idea might appeal to the rabid left, it’s likely to alienate the broad middle whose support will be essential if the Committee’s entire reform package is to be approved.

Just as unrestricted immigration to the United States was once standard and legal voting by noncitizens was once common in as many as 40 states, limitations or prohibitions in both arenas have been in place for almost 100 years. In that same vein, federal law prohibits contributions, donations, expenditures(including independent expenditures) and disbursements solicited, directed, received or made directly or indirectly by or from foreign nationals in connection with any federal, state or local election.

The Charter Review Committee members, all appropriately listing their She/Her, She/They, They/Them, He/Him pronouns on the committee’s website, are essentially a cabal of overzealous progressives intent on remaking the body politic to advance their agenda.

A review of the committee’s membership reveals an organization more akin to a social justice advocacy non-profit than a county charter review body.

Samantha Gladu (She/They), for example, is described as “…committed to addressing power inequities by building representative and progressive anti-racist leadership.” Ana I. González Muñoz (She/Her) “…works at Latino Network as the Director of Community Engagement & Leadership Development” and her … professional and personal commitment revolves around serving her community to advocate for equity, inclusion, and social justice.” Jude Perez (They/Them) “…is the Grants Manager at Seeding Justice…an organization that practices community-led grantmaking to distribute funds to grassroots groups that are working towards long-term, systemic solutions, and community-centered strategies to dismantle oppression in Oregon.”

While they and the other committee members unanimously supported the effort to legitimize and implement non-citizen voting and have expressed lofty theoretical sentiments for its adoption, beneath the surface it is little more than a power grab, an effort to further the political fortunes of specific ethnic groups.

As Ronald Hayduck, a professor at San Francisco State University who endorses non-citizen voting, has written, for allies it is important to drive “home the potential benefits of non-citizens to forge progressive political majorities.”

The practical downsides of non-citizen voting are rarely mentioned.

When a spokesman for the New York City Law Department told the Wall Street Journal the New York ruling “… is a disappointing court ruling for people who value bringing in thousands more New Yorkers into the democratic process,” he inadvertently revealed a major problem with allowing non-citizen voting.

Ricardo Lujan-Valerio, a policy director to Portland City Commissioner Carmen Rubio and former policy associate at ACLU of Oregon, told OPB he estimated the committee’s proposal “…could potentially affect up to 100,000 people if the final definition of ‘noncitizen’ includes the roughly 22,000 undocumented residents living in Portland.” It’s not clear if that estimate includes not just undocumented people in the county illegally, but also people admitted to the US legally, but not yet US citizens.

That many non-citizens added to Multnomah County’s voting rolls could result in a substantial dilution of the power of the county’s citizen voters.

Justice Ralph J. Porzio, a State Supreme Court justice on New York City’s Staten Island, raised the dilution issue when, on June 27, 2022, he struck down a law that would have allowed non-citizens to vote in local elections in New York City, saying it violated the State Constitution.

“This Court finds that the registration of new voters will certainly affect voters, political parties, candidate’s campaigns, re-elections, and the makeup of their constituency and is not speculative.,” the judge said in his ruling. “The weight of the citizens’ vote will be diluted by municipal voters and candidates and political parties alike will need to reconfigure their campaigns. Though the Plaintiffs have not suffered any harm today, the harm they will suffer is imminent, and it is reasonably certain that they will suffer their claimed harm if the proposed municipal voters are entitled to vote.”

“Voting is of the most fundamental significance under our constitutional structure…The addition of 800,000 to 1,000,000 non-eligible votes into municipal elections significantly devalues the votes of the New York citizens who have lawfully and meaningfully earned the right to vote pursuant to constitutional requirements.”

Some liberal politicians may express support for non-citizen voting because they see a pool of potentially supportive voters for their re-election. But they should be careful what they wish for.

The New York Times wrote recently about an unexpected turn of immigrants in South Texas away from leftist Democrats and toward the GOP.

An article titled How Immigration Politics Drives Some Hispanic Voters to the G.O.P. in Texas noted:

“Democrats are destroying a Latino culture built around God, family and patriotism, dozens of Hispanic voters and candidates in South Texas said in interviews. The Trump-era anti-immigrant rhetoric of being tough on the border and building the wall has not repelled these voters from the Republican Party or struck them as anti-Hispanic bigotry. Instead, it has drawn them in.”

“Our parents came in a certain way — they came in and worked, they became citizens and didn’t ask for anything,” said Ramiro Gonzalez Jr., a 48-year-old rancher from Raymondville, on the northern edge of the Rio Grande Valley. “We were raised hard-core Democrats, but today Democrats want to give everything away.”

Republican candidates in South Texas appealing to Latinos “…are building on a decades-long history of economic, religious and cultural sentiment that has veered toward conservatives,” the story said.

Multnomah County advocates of non-citizen voting and their political allies should take heed.