As one of his first acts, newly elected New York City Mayor Eric Adams allowed a measure to become law that gives some 800,000 foreign nationals the right to vote in city elections, so long as they’ve lived in the city for more than 30 days.
New York’s move follows San Francisco, where, in 2016, voters approved a ballot measure granting foreign nationals the franchise in school board elections if they were parents of a child attending a public school. The temporary measure was set to expire in 2021, but was made permanent last October in a unanimous vote by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Moves by two of America’s largest and most progressively left-wing cities no doubt have leftists in cities across the nation salivating at the prospect of expanding their voter base – and winning elections.
After California, Texas is America’s second-largest electoral prize. There are about 5 million immigrants in Texas – 17% of the population. Of those, about 2 million have become citizens with another million eligible to become naturalized. It’s estimated that, as of 2016, about 1.6 million illegal immigrants lived in Texas. Texas taxpayers pick up the tab for more than $850 million annually to provide medical services for illegal aliens, educate unaccompanied alien children, and jail criminal illegal aliens.
In Texas, the major city most likely to first pass an ordinance allowing foreign nationals to vote would be Austin, the state’s capital. And, among Austin’s mayor and 10 city council members, the most likely member to propose allowing foreigners to vote in city elections is left-wing council member Greg Casar. In a 2021 interview with far-left Jacobin Magazine, Casar noted that there are many immigrants in Austin, “…who have lived in the United States longer than I’ve been alive but continue to be denied their right to vote…” due to their immigration status.
Casar, a self-proclaimed socialist, is running for Congress in a fairly safe Democratic district stretching 90 miles from San Antonio to Austin. But first, he has to win the March primary and a likely May runoff against Democratic Texas State House Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, Rebecca J. Viagran, an eight-year veteran of the San Antonio City Council, and Carla-Joy Sisco. Casar would likely see proposing an ordinance granting the vote to noncitizens as a powerful tonic to lift himself past his rivals in a deep blue low turnout primary election.
Of such a city ordinance, Texas Secretary of State John B. Scott noted, “Texas Election Code Sec. 13.001 clearly states that in order to be eligible for voter registration in the State of Texas – including for voting any municipal or local elections – one must be a United States citizen. Any local government attempting to pass an ordinance allowing non-United States citizens to register to vote would be running afoul of Texas law. Texas law does not allow for a two-tiered voter registration system for state versus local elections, as is being pursued in New York.”
But, just as there can be no prior restraint of free speech, lawmakers are under no obligation to pass legal laws – they can pass anything they want with a proper majority – whether it survives constitutional muster is a separate issue.
“Any city or county in Texas that tries to do what New York has done by giving noncitizens the ability to vote would be violating state law,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. “My office would pursue every legal angle to stop it. Only American citizens can vote in Texas.”
But last month the state’s highest criminal law court obliterated the attorney general’s long-standing powers to criminally prosecute election law violations. “Thanks to the Court of Criminal Appeals’ Stephens v. State decision, Texans will now have to rely on Democrat local officials in blue strongholds to enforce election integrity,” said Paxton. “We know that will never happen. Not only is the court wrong on the law – in fact, I recently filed a motion for rehearing – but its decision makes it much more likely for the left to steal Texas elections through illegal means.”
From a political and historical standpoint, New York City’s allowing foreign nationals to vote in city elections makes sense. The city’s electorate is reliably left and approves of the move while some 120 years ago, New York City’s Tammany Hall machine created a citizenship pipeline designed to circumvent the naturalization process in exchange for the votes of immigrants.
But Texas isn’t New York.
Matt Rinaldi, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas and a former state lawmaker, predicted that Democrats would suffer immediate and severe political fallout from such a move, “Republican fundraising would soar and Republican and independent voters would be more motivated to turn out against Democrats all over the state.”
But, he observed, “Even though it would hurt Democrats statewide, for someone like Casar, it’s all about winning the primary. Granting foreign nationals the right to vote is deeply popular with the Democrats’ increasingly powerful progressive left-wing activist base.”
If a city ordinance does pass in Texas allowing foreign nationals to vote, and if it survives constitutional scrutiny, it would likely be quickly quashed by the state Legislature when they return for their next biennial session in 2023.