Incorporating perspectives of non-US citizen residents by allowing them to vote on local issues adds value. These active community members pay taxes, own businesses and have children attending our schools; they are part of the fabric of communities and are affected by local government decisions. Notably, these residents cannot vote in state and federal elections, and Greene County Board of Elections has confirmed the ability to manage differing ballots, as is already done with primaries.
In 2020, the citizens of Yellow Springs voted to change our Village Charter to allow non-US citizen residents to vote in local elections. Enfranchising these 27 community members is aligned with our Village Value to be a “Welcoming Community” to people of all backgrounds, and a clear majority of electors believe that their neighbors should have a say. This action is similar to that of 16 municipalities in 5 other Home Rule states. Such participation is not new in the US. It was not until 1996 that Congress prohibited non-US citizens from voting in federal elections; however, 18 USC 611 states “aliens are authorized to vote for such other purpose under a State constitution or statute or a local ordinance.” From the founding of our country until 1926, 40 states at various points allowed non-citizens to vote in local, state and federal elections.
The Village of Yellow Springs views allowing non-US citizen residents to vote as creating a more representative and responsive government. Allowing these residents to vote on local issues enhances democracy by effectively providing a voice to those with a vested interest in their communities. This fosters engagement and connection, vital to the success of local government.
There is no need to amend Ohio’s Constitution. Without a problem to solve, it is incumbent upon our state legislators to preserve the principles of Home Rule, recognizing that the Buckeye State is a diversity of municipalities with varying values and cultures. We can all agree that differing personal and political perspectives should be respected.
Ohio’s Constitution allows those who are US citizens and 18 years and older to vote, but it does not prevent 16- or 17-year-olds or non-US citizen residents from voting in local elections. Issue 2 is a political stunt and takes Ohio further down a path discouraging talented individuals and innovative businesses from coming to our state. Secretary of State LaRose knows that the vast majority of Ohio’s municipalities will not enfranchise non-US citizen residents, but has taken the lead in “baiting the base” and creating a disruptive atmosphere around voting that is contrary to his duty to promote voter access.
Ultimately, it is important to realize that a “YES” on Issue 2 is not just about expressing a personal opinion, but has broader implications for facilitating behavior by state elected officials that is not productive for Ohio. A “NO” on Issue 2 sends a message that we can see through the politicizing of non-issues that encourages toxic divisiveness, which does not help Ohioans. Our state government continues to take away the ability of local governments to respond to their constituents’ needs. While we all have our personal opinions, it is anti-American to impose them on others. Let’s encourage our state legislators to focus on real issues that benefit our state and residents.
Brian K. Housh is the Council President of the Village of Yellow Springs.
About the Author