Noncitizen Voting and American Democracy

By Stanley Renshon on August 13, 2009

Order a copy of Noncitizen Voting and American Democracy at

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009


Continuing large-scale migration to the United States raises the question of how best to integrate new immigrants into the American national community. Traditionally, one successful answer has been to encourage immigrants to learn our language, culture, history, and civic traditions. New immigrants would then be invited become citizens and welcomed as full members of the community.

However, a concerted effort is underway to gain acceptance for, and implement, the idea that the United States should allow new immigrants to vote without becoming citizens. It is mounted by an alliance that brings together progressive academics, law professors, local and state political leaders, and community activists, all working to decouple voting from American citizenship. Their effort show signs of success, but is it really in America's best interests to allow new immigrants to have the vote? Their proposals have been much advocated, but little analyzed.

Neither a polemic nor a whitewash, Stanley A. Renshon provides a careful analysis of the arguments put forward by advocates of this position on the basis of fairness, increasing democracy, civic learning, and moral necessity and asks: Do they really help immigrants become Americans?


"Most Americans today take it for granted that immigrants should be required to reside in the U.S. for several years and to learn English and the basics of American history before they are allowed the right to vote. But this traditional understanding has recently been challenged by immigrant advocates, and a few communities have abandoned citizenship requirements in certain elections. In this brief, lucid, and lively book, Stanley Renshon provides a powerful critique of these radical proposals, and enriches our understanding of what American citizenship is (and should continue to be) all about."--Stephan Thernstrom, Harvard University

"Most Americans would be surprised to learn that there's a case for allowing non-citizens to vote. Political scientist and psychologist Stanley Renshon takes that case seriously and shows that it has disturbing implications for the definition of what it means to be an American."--Michael Barone, American Enterprise Institute and The Washington Examiner