By BRADLEY HONAN and ARICK WIERSON | JAN 02, 2022 | Original Article
Recently the New York City Council voted to give voting rights to noncitizens.
Predictably, Republicans are apoplectic, suggesting that this was a massive Democratic power grab. The Republican National Committee tweeted out that this legislation was an “unprecedented attack on election integrity” and suggested they might fight the decision in court.
Conventional wisdom suggests this move will be a boon to Democrats, especially if it moves beyond the borders of New York City, but we see it as quite the opposite.
Giving noncitizens the opportunity to vote is certainly no panacea for Democrats for several reasons — and it may even be a strategic advantage for the Republicans as it will further gin up the tribalism of contemporary politics and help the GOP solidify white voters in their camp.
First, as research conducted by the Pew Charitable Trust makes clear, young, less well educated, lower-income, and racial and ethnic minorities are much less likely to vote than any other voter cohort. Research by Jesse Yoder at Stanford University suggests that homeownership — a firm tie to one’s community — increases the probability that someone will vote in a local election, and non-citizens are usually non-homeowners.
We also know from Pew that the greatest number of recent immigrants — the noncitizens — are from Mexico more so than any other country, and thus fit the very same profile as current nonvoters — disproportionately lower-income racial minorities. Public opinion research tells us this segment almost fits the profile of exactly who doesn’t vote.
Giving someone the right to vote and then actually turning them out to vote are two very different things.ADVERTISEMENT
Indeed, voter participation in the highly consequential November 2020 election between Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump was 66% among the voting-eligible population — the highest turnout in a century. But that also meant that roughly one-third of eligible American voters sat the race out. That’s a relatively large percentage of people electing not to participate, and these numbers are among citizens.
If one in three American citizens are not voting in arguably the highest stakes presidential election we have seen in a generation, it’s certainly not reasonable to expect a flood of turnout from non-citizens, who typically have less at stake than do naturalized American citizens in the fate of the country.
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The so-called “browning” of the U.S. electorate has been seen for the last 15-20 years as a huge impending strategic advantage for Democrats. The thinking goes that as the American population evolves and becomes majority-minority — i.e. more non-white — then Democrats will have greater and greater advantages, given their historical performance with non-white voters.
That is faulty thinking and logic. According to exit polls, Donald Trump won 28% of the Latino vote in 2016 and then increased his share of this segment to 32% in 2020. And right here in New York City, and specifically in the Bronx, Trump grew his share of the vote by making inroads with Latinos — winning tens of thousands more voters in 2020 than he had four years ago.
But the news gets even worse for Democrats. Recent polling by The Wall Street Journal indicates that Hispanics are becoming a true swing audience. In the poll, 37% would vote for a Democratic candidate for Congress and 37% would vote for a Republican for Congress, with 22% undecided. If that trend comes close to reality on Election Day, Democratic fortunes are doomed; Democrats running for Congress won 60% of the Latino vote in 2020.
The fact is that Latinos are certainly not in the Democratic camp. They are increasingly a swing voter group, and we would argue that Democrats have taken the support of Latino voters for granted for too long and the chickens are now finally coming home to roost, as the saying goes.
So allowing non-citizens to vote isn’t likely to put all that many votes in the Democrats’ column. We fully expect the GOP to weaponize this issue in order to continue to drive turnout with their baseless claims of voter fraud.
Honan is CEO of Honan Strategy Group, a Democratic polling and analytics firm. Wierson is a TV producer and former senior media adviser to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.