On the Right Lane: Who has the right to vote?


“As a democracy is perfect, the office of the president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

H.L. Mencken, American journalist and satirist

All I can state is if the quotation above doesn’t ring true, then the majority of Americans are truly asleep. This particular column came about because once again the city of Portland is considering letting non-citizens vote in local elections. I might as well add the two leading Portland politicians promoting this idea are the two who I would expect such a motion to come from. I must also state that I am a first-generation American, which in Maine language means my parents were from away, actually from a country far away. Therefore lies my dilemma.

First I must state how disappointed I feel at the dismal voting record of American citizens at any election. Some Americans say they feel their votes don’t count. I feel that is really sad. But living in the world of today’s politics, I have to wonder if letting non-citizens vote is nothing more than a political push by one political party over another in order to gain votes. Sadly, that is not such a surprising statement.

I cannot say how my parents felt about how they were treated after they came, separately, I might add, through the same entry point of Ellis Island, because they never told me. What they experienced probably doesn’t even come close to what I could imagine. Were they entering a land of wonder or fear? I can presume they¬† faced a language barrier they never expected along with a completely different set of customs that they never could have dreamed of. I would think some of that exists today. But I have to think being able to vote would help someone feel a part of our political system and not an outsider. Just look how long it took for women to have the right to vote. Best I can see our country was founded on the right of rich white men being in charge and that was it.

I will admit that for this column I didn’t seek a lot of opinions because I can pretty much guess what some of their opinions would be. The staunch conservative would be against allowing non-citizens to vote because they are not citizens and don’t deserve the right to vote. I would have to believe a more liberal person would agree to allowing them to vote, some for just local elections and others would give them total freedom to cast votes for all levels of candidates.

I feel the dilemma comes with the process in selecting, when it comes to non-citizens, who would be able to vote and which wouldn’t. How would the screening process take place, how many workers would it take and, as always, how much would the additional cost to taxpayers be.

There are those who seek citizenship by enlisting in one of America’s armed forces. I can remember only one during my second tour in Germany. He was from Panama, but left the Army before he received his citizenship. He was a hard worker who wore his uniform proudly, so I have no difficulty stating he certainly deserved the right to vote even as a non-citizen. Therefore, should there be some type of standard to judge which¬† non-citizens can vote? I think the same standard should be used for American citizens as well.

Lane Hiltunen of Windham wants to live in a town that has an open and honest government.