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Courtesy of The Ohio Statehouse

Should people who are not U.S. citizens be allowed to vote in local elections? How about statewide elections? Or elections for the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate or even president of the United States?

The obvious answer should be “no,” but it comes up from time to time as local governments believe they should extend the franchise to resident aliens.

Ohio voters will answer that question in November. Last week, the Ohio General Assembly approved House Joint Resolution 4, putting the question on the general election ballot.

The matter came up in 2020, when the village of Yellow Springs approved a charter amendment allowing legal immigrants the right to vote in local elections for elected office and tax issues. The Yellow Springs Village Council insisted it was within its rights under its home-rule charter to allow noncitizens to vote in village elections. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, ordered the county board of elections to reject voter registration of noncitizens and to reject any ballots they cast.

The amendment to be voted on says only citizens of the United States may vote in state or local elections. HJR 4 passed on a bipartisan vote of 32-0 in the Senate. It passed 68-28 in the Ohio House. Republicans voted 63-0 in favor, while Democrats voted against it, 5-28. All four legislators representing this area — two in the House and two in the Senate, all Republicans — voted for the resolution.

“Ohio elections are only for Ohio citizens. The right to vote is sacrosanct and fundamental to what citizenship means in America and is why so many immigrate from around the world to the U.S., wait their turn in line, and go through the laborious citizenship process so they too can participate in this hallmark of democracy,” LaRose said last week after the General Assembly’s action.

“It has become abundantly clear that this remains a weakness in Ohio election administration. Without the clarity provided in the Amendment, future Secretaries of State might choose to agree to bestow the precious, uniquely American right to vote to people who are not American citizens,” he added in his prepared statement.

Yellow Springs’ stated justification for allowing noncitizens to vote was the phrase “taxation without representation is tyranny.” That phrase comes up now and again. It was mentioned in Huntington when the city council enacted the user fee. Ohio law allows taxation without representation, as county governments may levy sales taxes paid by nonresidents and municipalities may levy income taxes. Paying a tax does not allow nonresidents of those jurisdictions to vote in their elections, however.

While Yellow Springs wanted to allow legal immigrants to vote, there’s always the possibility another community would offer that same privilege to illegal immigrants.

The line has to be drawn somewhere. Voting in U.S. elections is for U.S. citizens. Their influence in government must not be watered down by people who have not yet attained citizenship or who are not seeking it. Otherwise, the value of citizenship is diluted or eliminated.

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