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Ask Auntie Pinko
June 10, 2004

Dear Auntie Pinko,

Since Jefferson and the lads, when they wrote the "Sacred Scripture" of the Constitution, regarded what they wrote as universal, does this mean non-United States citizens have a "right" to exercise the rights associated with the Constitution?

Such as voting for the removal of the Presidential incumbent?


Startled Foreigner

Dear Startled,

Well may you ask, for thereby hangs an interesting issue in these complicated times. However, to go straight to the gravamen of your inquiry, no. Non-citizens are not entitled to vote in U.S. elections.

The Constitution of the United States is a fascinating document, and it's not really very long (there are only seven Articles and 27 Amendments.) I heartily recommend it as reading material, and here is a link:

As you'll see if you follow the link and read the document, the Constitution's purpose is twofold: To establish the structure by which the country will be governed, and to secure the rights of citizens within that structure. The first thing you'll probably notice is that all voting rights are vested solely in citizens.

However, once you read past the technicalities of how the government may not favor one state over another in establishing ports, laying taxes, passing laws, etc. (this was a huge concern at the time the document was written and presented for ratification,) you'll get to the Amendments, and here is where things get interesting.

The first ten Amendments, also known as the Bill of Rights, contain absolutely no provisions within them limiting them to citizens. Thus, the right to be protected against search and seizure, the right to due process of law, the right to a speedy and public trial, to trial by jury, the rights to bail and to protection from cruel and unusual punishment, may all be presumed to apply equally to anyone within the jurisdiction of United States authority, citizen or not.

Isn't that just fascinating, Startled? One reason why Auntie Pinko put the link to the Constitution right up there is because it seems to me that for whatever reason, many Americans (and some of them in positions of considerable power and authority) might just have, well... I'll be kind here, "forgotten" to read the Constitution lately.

Certainly, there exists a huge body of law interpreting the Constitution and defining its applications, based upon the work of the Supreme Court. Scholars and jurists spend whole careers studying and analyzing all the legal actions of the Court and how they affect the application of the Constitution. But no Court has the jurisdiction to change the Constitution or deny its provisions.

And the "what if it were me" test is still the most powerful and accurate way to judge how well the Constitution is being applied by the courts: "What if it were me, standing in the place of that defendant, accused of that crime?" The Founders knew full well that innocent people could be suspected, accused, arrested, and tried for crimes. They had ample experience with the abuses of judicial power by corrupt officials appointed by autocratic monarchs, and laws passed by greedy and self-interested Parliaments.

While your reference to the Constitution as "Sacred Scripture" may be facetious or even ironic, Startled, there is no irony in its very real role as the last and most potent defense of people struggling with the abuses of power by misguided, corrupt, or selfish governments. It is in very truth, the secular "Scripture" of political self-determination. As such, it deserves the careful study of every citizen, and the respect of all - citizen or not - within American jurisdiction.

Enjoy the reading, Startled Foreigner, and thanks for asking Auntie Pinko!

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