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Blocked From The Ballot: Meet Christine Swanson, Lawful Permanent Resident

A woman holds a American flag during a naturalization ceremony.
A woman holds a American flag during a naturalization ceremony.

In the United States, there are millions of people whose voices won’t be heard when it’s time to vote in November.

For many years, Christine Swanson was one of them. She’s one of the 12.3 million permanent lawful residents who aren’t allowed to vote. But come April, she’ll join 20.3 million naturalized citizens who can cast a ballot. Although she couldn’t vote in the Florida primary, she’s excited to vote in the general.

Her naturalization ceremony is scheduled for April.

“Being weeks away from naturalization is exciting. We’re in a pivotal moment in U.S. politics right now, and I hope to be able to vote in this election. I look forward to being able to cast my ballot as a referendum on how this administration has handled many things, including Supreme Court nominations, women’s issues, DACA, environmental regulation, and most recently, the inadequate response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As one of the many residents who pays taxes, Swanson felt her contribution to her community was undermined by her lack of a vote, especially because she tries to stay politically literate.

“In the past, it has been very frustrating to not be able to contribute to our democracy. I’m fairly politically active and not having a voice can feel very defeating.”

But not every story is like Swanson’s. For recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and for those with temporary residencies or visas, the hope of becoming naturalized and casting a ballot can seem more like a pipe dream.

But cities like San Francisco and Takoma Park, Maryland, are trying to  re-enfranchise non-citizens.

Journalist Rachel Cohen wrote about that movement:

“Activists in San Francisco have looked to Takoma Park, a Maryland suburb outside of Washington, DC, that has successfully implemented noncitizen voting for the past quarter-century. In 1992 the city adopted a charter resolution that removed its citizenship requirement for voting and holding local office.”

Should non-citizens have the right to cast a ballot in the presidential election? Or should voting should be reserved for US citizens?

This conversation is part of our “Blocked From The Ballot” series, where we’re spotlighting different groups of people living in America (or in American territories) who are not allowed to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

Copyright 2020 WAMU 88.5. To see more, visit WAMU 88.5.