Robin Liu


This article proposes, as a matter of principle, that there should be a rebuttable presumption in favor of extending voting rights in local elections to permanent residents. It will justify why the proposed presumption should apply, the ways in which it could be rebutted, and offer some insight into how the presumption could serve as a guide to constitutional interpretation and design. It will review the reasons for the connection between citizenship and voting rights, and then address why permanent residents should be granted the right to vote in local elections. Three case studies will be used to illustrate how the presumption could apply to various constitutional democracies.

This article ultimately concludes that normative considerations weigh in favor of enfranchising permanent residents. Noncitizens have demonstrated that they are stakeholders in their communities. Granting them the right to participate in local elections accommodates democratic principles without hindering the ability of national governments to pursue their interests. The article suggests that the proposed presumption should hold unless there is evidence that the issues discussed at the local level include issues generally associated with national policy and that the permanent residents have a reasonable opportunity to naturalize. Notions of fairness and practical considerations weigh in favor of enfranchising permanent residents in local elections.

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