Rhode Island bill would grant undocumented immigrants voting rights

by Jacob Fuller

Curt Flewelling, FISM News

A controversial bill proposed by Rhode Island State Representative Enrique Sanchez (D) would allow undocumented immigrants the right to vote in local elections. Their only requirement to vote would be to present a valid driver’s license or Tax Payer ID number at the polls.

Bill H 5461 authorizes cities and towns, by ordinance, to allow all their residents to vote in municipal elections for municipal officeholders regardless of the immigration status of their residents.

The bill’s sponsor told The Providence Journal, “People living in our community might not be citizens, but they still pay taxes, still have kids in the schools. They still have to drive around potholes and need police and fire services.”

Financing local concerns will undoubtedly be easier if such legislation passes as undocumented immigrants historically vote for Democrats in large numbers. Representative Sanchez all but ceded this point.

“This is an opportunity for us to generate more income, more ‘revenue’, excuse me, in our communities. Ya know, this is an opportunity to fix our roads, our communities,” Sanchez said.


Terry Gorman, President and Executive Director of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement, doesn’t think this is a good idea.

“Why should we do anything to help an illegal alien? They broke the law to come in here, and I believe this law, if they look it up, I think it’s against the state Constitution,” Gorman told NBC 10 reporter Joanna Bouras.

Article II of the Rhode Island Constitution is at the crux of the matter. Many believe that Article II Section 1 is quite clear on the issue. Although the section does give broad voting rights to state residents, the first few words of the section seem to trump this privilege.

Section one starts by stating, “Every citizen of the United States.” Democrats in the state don’t seem to be too concerned with this requirement. Representative Sanchez cited the fact that the cities of New York and San Francisco have already implemented such policies.

Although the laws in these cities are being challenged in court, Sanchez is confident that the Rhode Island Constitution will not have to be amended to bestow these rights to undocumented immigrants.