Michigan State student gov: Let non-citizens vote

The Illegal Immigration and Reform Responsibility Act of 1996 prevents non-citizens from voting in federal elections but does not apply to state and local elections.

The Michigan State University student government passed a resolution calling on state and local governments to allow non-citizens to vote.

The Michigan State University student government passed two resolutions, 55-23 and 55-24, on Thursday, calling on state and local government to allow both non-citizens and 17-year-olds to vote.

The first bill sought to extend voting rights to noncitizens. The proposal argued that this change was important to help address the living standards of noncitizens. The proposal stated, “certain policies will affect non-citizens’ living standard in East Lansing and may cause them to leave the area.” 

During debate, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources student representative Josh Grindling pointed to the Illegal Immigration and Reform Responsibility Act of 1996, which prevents non-citizens from voting in federal elections. 

However, the explicit non-application to state elections allows for Michigan or East Lansing to change their voting laws, Grindling argued. The noncitizen voting bill passed the policy committee unopposed. 

[RELATED: Illegal immigrant students now allowed positions on California college boards]

The next bill advocated lowering the age for voter eligibility from 18 to 17. The original recommendation was 16 but that changed with concerns over the rights of 16-year-olds to vote. 

Rep. Oscar Garner of the Business College was first to bring up his suspicion. He referenced the twenty-sixth amendment, which passed in 1971. The passage secured voting for 18-year-olds. He supported this expansion of voting. 

“Someone old enough to fight for your country deserves the right to vote,” Garner said. 

He did not approve of a greater expansion to age 16: “I don’t really see the reason for 16-year-olds to be voting.”

“It couldn’t be done,” the mayor of East Lansing, Mark Meadows, told student representative Maysa Sitar in a previous conversation regarding the bill. Sitar represents the Communication Arts and Science College.

When discussing the merit of lowering the voting age, representatives referenced four other communities that have implemented similar legislation. According to ASMSU Vice President of Governmental Affairs Eli Pales, such communities exist in California and Maryland. However, Pales said it’s currently difficult to understand the benefit of such policies because they are so new. The committee passed the second bill. 

[RELATED: UVA students petition for removal of senator who refused to vote on illegal immigrant group]

Students and alumni had mixed feelings about both pieces of legislation. MSU student, Solomon Alvi, told The Morning Watch, “voting rights to noncitizens is something I can agree with...America is best if it becomes...pro global.”

Hannah Sullivan, an astrophysics student, said, “it’s good...for noncitizens to have a say in the matter.”

Other students and alumni thought differently. A sophomore business major, Zach Kucera, said, “no non-citizen should be allowed to vote outside of their own country.”

MSU alumni Nick Tolfree, who worked in Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration and the Michigan House of Representatives, viewed the non-citizen voting resolution as “unfair.” Tolfree also questioned the focus of ASMSU.

“I feel that [ASMSU] should focus on collecting these [non-citizen] opinions and then bringing them to the attention of the city,” said Tolfree. 

R. George Dunn, an MSU alumnus who indicated he was a former 1970’s socialist, held reservations about both bills.

“The voting age should have remained at 21 for many reasons...voting should be curtailed and it should also be held as our most sacred right and protected from any fraud,” Dunn said.

The Morning Watch reached out to several other MSU alumni and students, but did not receive responses in time for publication. 

This article was originally published in The Morning Watch, a conservative student newspaper affiliated with the Leadership Institute’s Campus Leadership Program. Its articles are republished here with permission.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @watch_morning