Editorial: Voting in America is a privilege for citizens

A voter marks his ballot via cell phone

A voter marks his ballot via cell phone light at the generator powered First United Methodist Church in Oceanside, New York. (Nov. 6, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

Let's give City Councilman Daniel Dromm of Jackson Heights the benefit of the doubt. Let's assume he's just an idealist who thinks immigrants who've legally lived and worked in the city for six months have earned the right to vote in our municipal elections. The problem is, his motivations don't matter.

The idea is terrible.

It's unworkable. The New York City Board of Elections can't even count -- in a timely and reliable fashion -- the votes of citizens who have lived here for generations. It's lost in a ring of hell as it struggles to switch from the old lever-operated voting machines to fussy high-tech ones. Now Dromm wants it to verify the eligibility of people who say they came here, a few months ago from places like Brasilia, Bratislava and Bissau? Sure. That'll go well.

It might be illegal. Mayor Michael Bloomberg insists that the state constitution doesn't let noncitizens vote in municipal elections.

Besides, even if the proposal were constitutional -- and even if it managed to survive a mayoral veto -- it would probably face additional challenges anyway. The mayor's office argues that a voting rules change of this sort would require a local referendum and possibly pre-clearance from the Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act.

Robust immigration is the city's lifeblood.

For 400 years, immigration has driven its innovation and resilience and quest for excellence. It has made us who we are. But the right to vote must be earned with a respect and understanding for our political systems -- city, state and national -- that the process of becoming a citizen provides.

Democracy works best when it's guided by an informed populace with a vested interest in its success.

If you want a voice in the system -- great.

Just study up, learn what it's all about, and good luck chasing the American dream. In a metropolis filled with immigrants, we still need fresh input. And in an age of epic corruption -- in Albany and Manhattan -- we need all the committed new players we can find.

Citizenship has its rewards. Voting is one of them.

Tags: opinion , ARTICLE , AMNY

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