Universal Suffrage: Expanding voting rights in California

To resist the racist, xenophobic, and un-American forces that have recently cemented a great amount of power in our nation, I propose that we expand voting rights in our State to include non-citizens in our democratic system.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are over 5.3 million non-citizens living in California. These residents work, pay taxes, and live much the same lives as citizens. They are a part of our society, and our society is only hurt by their exclusion in our democracy.

Currently, federal law would seem to prohibit non-citizens from voting in any federal elections. However, the statute in question, 18 USC 611, is clearly unconstitutional.

“[The] Elections Clause empowers Congress to regulate how federal elections are held, but not who may vote in them. The latter is the province of the States. See U. S. Const., Art. I, §2, cl. 1; Amdt. 17.” – Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, 133 S. Ct. 2247 – Supreme Court 2013

In order to expand voting rights to all California residents, an amendment to the California Constitution would be required. In order to amend the Constitution, the Legislature, by two-thirds vote in both houses, could propose such an amendment for the people to vote on as a ballot measure in the next election. Alternatively, through the initative process, the people could directly place such a proposal onto the ballot without support of the Legislature.

In either case, the following is my proposal for such an amendment to the California Constitution.

Legislative Proposal
Constitutional Amendment

Abstract:

This proposed constitutional amendment would expand voting to all California residents over the age of 16, including non-citizens, felons, and voters with disabilities.

Proposed Text:

WHEREAS, Individual participation in democracy is congruent with a functioning and stable society; and

WHEREAS, The State has the power to set qualifications for voters in local, state, and federal elections as provided under the 17th Amendment of the United States Constitution; and

WHEREAS, Non-citizens that are residents of this State should have a voice in and a responsibility to their communities and to our society as a whole; and

WHEREAS, There has been historical discrimination against people with disabilities, including declarations of their mental incompetency resulting with inappropriate loss of voting rights; and

WHEREAS, The rate of incarceration within the United States is at a level higher than any nation at any time in the history of the world; and

WHEREAS, Life-long voting habits would be best established during a formative youthful age; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Assembly, the Senate concurring, That the Legislature of the State of California at its 2017–18 Regular Session commencing on the fifth day of December 2016, two-thirds of the membership of each house concurring, hereby proposes to the people of the State of California that the Constitution of the State be amended as follows:

First— That Section 2 of Article II thereof is amended to read:

SEC. 2.  A resident of this State that is at least 16 years of age may vote.

Second— That Section 4 of Article II thereof is amended to read:

SEC. 4.  The Legislature shall prohibit improper practices that affect elections.

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