A true story, but I rigged it in favor of the candidate I opposed, and learned a lot about immigration and citizenship in the process.
by James Leroy Wilson
July 6, 2011
I will tell you a story I've never told anyone before, of how I committed voter fraud, how it confused my views on immigration, and how they were clarified once again.
In the 1996 Presidential Election, I served as an election judge. Where I lived, the laws said that each precinct required 4-6 judges, split between Democrats and Republicans. At the time, I was very ambivalent about Bob Dole, but preferred him over Bill Clinton and I served as a Republican judge.
A naturalized citizen, a woman from Korea had trouble understanding the ballot and requested help. But not only could she not understand the instructions on the ballot, she could barely understand English at all. I had received minimal training and was new at the job, but I perceived that this was simply going nowhere. And so I broke the rules and simply asked her as best I could who she intended to vote for. She said, as best she could, Clinton (or Democrat). I literally guided her hand to punch the hole for Clinton (or the straight Democrat line; I don't remember).
Of course, an election judge should NEVER ask a voter who he or she is voting for. That's basically the #1 rule, legally and ethically, because it assumes there is no legitimate reason to ask the question, except to intimidate the voter.
But I went ahead anyway. The woman was so obviously ignorant of how anything works that she wouldn't have reported me. I basically voted on her behalf, expressing her wishes. I violated the law, but fulfilled its "spirit." My precinct was "safe" for Clinton that year, as was my state as well as the entire nation. My act of voter fraud on behalf of a candidate I opposed didn't make a difference.
She may have followed Korean translations of political speeches on television. Maybe others in her immigrant community told her who to vote for. In any case, the citizenship laws made her "qualified" to vote.
At the time, and for years afterward, I supported open immigration, and do so today. But I also thought, "Did this woman really have the right to vote?" How many close elections were decided by people as incapable as she was of understanding the process? How many were "helped along" by election judges like me? And were those judges as "noble" as I was by selecting the voter's preference instead of their own?
I have often said that your vote will more likely to be counted as error or fraud than that it will actually make a difference. I speak from experience.
And after some years, I confronted some theoretical and practical problems with immigration, such as population influxes that raise land values (and therefore rents and property taxes) and that depress wages. I realize now that neither were problems in and of themselves, but rather that the present existing anti-free market laws and regulations were the real reasons wages were depressed and land values so high.
I was concerned that immigration would be a burden on government social services, and thought that we should get rid of the welfare state before we have a more open immigration policy. Now I realize my mistake: Welfare isn't a good reason to prohibit open immigration; rather, immigration is a good reason to get rid of welfare.
Finally, I became concerned that there would be waves of immigrants from countries that have had scarce experience with anything resembling the Rule of Law, whether from the Middle East, Central Asia, Latin America, or elsewhere. But now I realize we shouldn't discriminate against individuals from particular countries, just because we "think" we know what their beliefs would be. If we discriminate against individuals, we become what we say we despise.
I realize now that I conflated two different concepts: immigration and citizenship. And I have that Korean lady to thank for it.
The lady was well-dressed. She was obviously from a prosperous family in the Korean-American community that was part of my neighborhood. She, or someone in her family, contributed positively to the nation's GDP. She had a right to be here. She had a right to work here.
I want a free market, which means I want a free labor market. And that means I support open immigration. I would rather have immigrants as legal residents and on the tax rolls. After all, if someone moved into a building I lived in and consumed heat and electricity, reduced available parking space, etc., then I'd want him to be paying rent, too. Otherwise, I'd have to pay more. By the same token, if I have to pay taxes, so should immigrants. And that means making them "legal."
I would say, however, that citizenship is another matter. The right to work is NOT the same as the right to vote. The right to work stems from everyone's right to do as they please provided they don't hurt anyone else. That means anyone should be free to make stuff in exchange for other people's money or goods. It also means the right to work for someone else for wages. It shouldn't matter where they live, or where they used to live.
The right to work is a human right that extends to children. They have a right to sell lemonade without a license. They have the right to do household chores for an allowance. By the same token, they have the right to stuff and lick envelopes - or do anything they are capable of - in exchange for an amount of money or some other reward they agree to.
But our laws say a native-born citizen has to wait at least 18 years before he's allowed to vote. It seems MORE than fair to expect the same of an immigrant who wants citizenship. And to have all ballots and instructions written in English.
"But," you protest, "An adult immigrant has greater knowledge and maturity than the native-born child!"
Maybe so, but that knowledge and maturity was never immersed in American laws, culture, language, and idiom. Someone who moved here, who was accustomed to different kinds of laws and a different culture will not really understand his new country in just a few years' time. Make him adjust for a good 18 years, the same we expect of native-born Americans, and THEN let him vote. By then, he will likely have had a much better understanding of the country. Moreover, if he wants to vote, he should pass a citizenship test and sign a loyalty oath, both in English, AFTER he or she has lived here for 18 years.
My ambivalence toward immigration was really my ambivalence about naturalized citizenship. The rules seem too lax. I think it is more than reasonable to require 18 consecutive years of residence (instead of 5 years) in order to vote, as well as English-only ballots with NO assistance from election officials regarding the instructions.
I say this with extreme ambivalance toward the existence of the United States, and the idea of voting at all. We'd probably be living much better if the highest form of government was at the county level.
But I say this in all honesty regarding the system we have. Extending the path to citizenship to 18 years will at least provide good evidence that the immigrant is fully-invested in the future of the United States. If these rules lead to the Southwest rejoining Mexico and the rest of the United States succumbing to Sharia Law, that will be the result of the failure of American values, NOT the force of foreign militancy.
If YOU say that it's is somehow racist or "anti-immigrant" to allow immigrants to vote after 18 years of living here, then I will with ALL FAIRNESS say this: if you think native-born Americans should wait 18 years instead of 5 years to vote, you must be anti-child.
About the Author:
James Leroy Wilson is author of Ron Paul Is A Nut (And So Am I). He blogs at Independent Country and writes for DownsizeDC.org and the Downsize DC Foundation. Opinions expressed here do not represent the views of DownsizeDC.org -- or of Ron Paul.
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