Citizens, Residents, and the Body Politic

15 Apr 2014 12:00am Paul David Meyer 

For more than a century, courts and policymakers have described citizenship as a necessary marker of the political community, defining the boundaries of who participates in our democracy and on what terms. State and federal prohibitions on noncitizen voting remain largely unchallenged and immune from public controversy or scholarly scrutiny. Yet recent jurisprudence on citizenship and voting rights may open the doctrinal door for enfranchisement claims brought by lawful permanent residents— those noncitizens with the greatest national stake and standing. 

This Comment offers two contributions to the discussion of noncitizen suffrage. First, it provides a novel descriptive framework, weaving together parallel developments in the Supreme Court’s thinking about citizenship, the franchise, and the special status of lawful permanent residents in the political community. Second, the Comment presents a normative argument that both responds to deepseated justifications for upholding blanket voting prohibitions and outlines a limited voting rights regime for lawful permanent residents.

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