Journal Article

Noncitizen voting and the extraconstitutional construction of the polity

Cristina M. Rodríguez

in International Journal of Constitutional Law

Published on behalf of The New York University School of Law

Volume 8, issue 1, pages 30-49
Published in print January 2010 | ISSN: 1474-2640
Published online January 2010 | e-ISSN: 1474-2659 | DOI:
Noncitizen voting and the extraconstitutional construction of the polity

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  • Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • UK Politics


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The core substantive principle of democracy is that those subject to the law should have a voice in its formulation—a principle of consent realized primarily through the mechanism of the vote. Yet the populations of few (if any) nation-states consist solely of formal citizens; migration and transnational practices give rise to populations within states bound by laws over which they have no direct control. In this essay, I consider a practice that can help address this potential democracy deficit—alien suffrage. I focus on three jurisdictions that have adopted some form of noncitizen voting in their histories—the United States, New Zealand, and Ireland—and consider how their practices reflect on the processes by which constitutional democracies construct their polities. Alien suffrage is not inconsistent with a sense of national identity nor does it necessarily diminish the cultural value of the vote. At the same time, the adoption of the practice may not be part of a robust regime of immigrants’ rights nor is it necessary to promote participation by noncitizens. Whether a society adopts alien suffrage, however, does reflect that regime's particular constitutional values and structures, as well as assumptions about the manner and pace at which the body politic ought to incorporate noncitizens.

Journal Article.  10424 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law ; UK Politics

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