Document Type

Article

Abstract

The core substantive principle of democracy is that those subject to the law should have a voice in its formulation — a principle of consent realized primarily through the mechanism of the vote. Yet the populations of few (if any) nation-states consist solely of formal citizens; migration and transnational practices give rise to populations within states bound by laws over which they have no direct control. In this essay, I consider a practice that can help address this potential democracy deficit — alien suffrage. I focus on three jurisdictions that have adopted some form of noncitizen voting in their histories — the United States, New Zealand, and Ireland — and consider how their practices refl ect on the processes by which constitutional democracies construct their polities. Alien suffrage is not inconsistent with a sense of national identity nor does it necessarily diminish the cultural value of the vote. At the same time, the adoption of the practice may not be part of a robust regime of immigrants’ rights nor is it necessary to promote participation by noncitizens. Whether a society adopts alien suffrage, however, does reflect that regime’s particular constitutional values and structures, as well as assumptions about the manner and pace at which the body politic ought to incorporate noncitizens.

Date of Authorship for this Version

2010

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Law Commons

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