Thuillier: Green card holders should be able to vote

Marcus Thuillier, Op-Ed Contributor

With election season right around corner, I can hear the familiar sound of other students urging me to register to vote. Political ads pollute my television (can Illinois afford a governor going to jail, “again”) and there is a feeling of desperation amongst my generation. 2018 could be a defining election year. Yet, as a green card holder, I can’t vote.

This rule is not unique to the United States. New Zealand and Chile are the only countries that allow non-citizens to vote in federal elections. As a French citizen, I voted in France’s presidential election in 2017, and I understand why the United States cannot grant me the right to vote here. There are however, a few elements of being a green card holder that clash with that idea.

There are about 12.6 million green card holders residing in the United States currently, which makes up about four percent of the American population. An estimated 5.7 million American expatriates vote from overseas with their ballots counting in one of the 50 states. This means an American who lives outside of the United States and has lived there for many years, has a bigger voice in America’s democratic process than me, a person who has lived and studied here since 2011.

Expats pay taxes in the United States and probably have a connection to their home country like I do, so of course they should have a right to vote. Me, and every other green card holder, DACA recipient and immigrant overall all contribute financially to this country by paying taxes. Some may say “Well, American citizens can serve in the army. They fight for our country.” Well, an estimated 18,700 green card holders also serve. I was signed up for the Selective Service a month before I turned 18, just like any other American citizen, as it is a mandatory step in the naturalization process. In case of the reinstitution of the draft (highly unlikely, I will give you that), I have just as many odds as any American to be drafted and sent to war. If the United States can send me to die, they could at least allow me to vote.

This is not just an American problem. My home country abides by the same rules. When you get a permanent resident card in France, you can stay and work for 10 years, join the army and, of course, pay taxes. But you cannot vote. When such a significant portion of the population contributes to your economy but are still disenfranchised from the country’s political life, it feels alienating.

I am not arguing for everyone to suddenly get the right to vote. But I have a permanent address in California, a temporary address here in Illinois and have paid my taxes for two years.

I also have been living in this country during each school year for the past seven years and have abided by every law the United States throws my way. If I have behaved like any other American citizen, why shouldn’t I get a vote in the election? This election matters for my future as much as anyone else’s in this country, so my voice should be heard.

Marcus Thuillier is a first-year graduate student. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.