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Not Just NYC: Ohio Town Tried to Allow Noncitizens to Vote, Prompting State Ballot Initiative

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Allowing non-citizens to vote is something that one expects to hear about in liberal parts of the country, such as in cities in Vermont. Legal battles are continuing in New York City, after a judge ruled in June that non-citizens could not vote in municipal elections after all, though it's going through appeals. Now, however, that liberal dream of creating new Democratic voters is coming to middle America. 


Over the weekend, in Avon, Ohio, Townhall spoke with Republican JD Vance, who is running against Democrat Rep. Tim Ryan for Ohio's open Senate seat. Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who holds the distinction of being the only secretary of state endorsed by former President Donald Trump, also gave remarks, and spoke with Townhall exclusively after the event as well. 

Shortly before Vance took to the stage, LaRose spoke to the standing room only crowd of an estimated 150-200 attendees to tout the successes of the state's elections, where Ohioans can be confident they'll know the results of the election that night. It's not just candidates that voters must pay attention to on the ballot, but also ballot initiative, including Issue 2, which handles non-citizens voting in local elections. Voting in favor of the initiative supports "prohibiting local governments from allowing noncitizens or those who lack the qualifications of an elector to vote in local elections."

Ohioans take pride in their elections, which includes cherishing it as a right that only citizens have. However, the liberal college town of Yellow Springs, held a referendum and decided in favor by 58 to 42 percent to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections. Upon LaRose sending them a letter that they could do no such thing, the town complied. 

As LaRose admitted during his remarks and while speaking with Townhall afterwards, however, had Yellow Springs sued him, it's possible they would win. He is confident that his argument would likely prevail, but one can never be too sure given that there is just enough ambiguity on local races. 


LaRose referred to the ballot initiative as "a really simple idea" and comes down to how "some people have just taken for granted for so long," with the secretary explaining "it's always been law that only U.S. citizens can vote in a federal election or a state election, and it's always just been kind of assumed that the same rules apply for a local election." 

From his office's perspective, LaRose spoke of how it "creates not only a security concern, but also a huge a administrative burden for the county boards of elections." He explained "if you were to start doing that, you'd have to have separate systems, separate voting machines, separate voting databases, all of that."

Again, Ohio takes pride in how quickly they count their election results. 

Speaking of the idea that letting non-citizens vote cheapens the experience is not merely a concept for those native-born citizens. As LaRose put it, it "devalues citizenship by giving it away, giving the right to vote away." 

He spoke fondly of presiding over naturalization ceremonies, calling it and sharing "here's my admonition, if you were to talk to a group of people that had just taken the oath of citizenship... it's an amazing thing, and those people are so excited, and happy to take that oath, and then they go back to the voter registration that we have, and probably after hugging their family, the next thing they do after becoming a citizen is register to vote. They would tell you don't cheapen, don't devalue the thing they just earned by giving it away to anybody."


When it comes to warning and acknowledging that this isn't just an issue affecting liberal states like New York and Vermont, LaRose referenced Yellow Springs, but also a candidate for county executive in Cuyahoga County who promoted the idea of anybody being able to cast a ballot, and emphasized these were "foolish" ideas.

Should the initiative pass, which LaRose promoted for providing clarity, the Ohio state constitution would be amended to say "Only a citizen of the United States... is entitled to vote at all elections." 

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