« Rochester Blog


Should Renters Still be Allowed to Vote?

March 1, 2011 by in Politics
Comments (3)

Sounds like a crazy question, doesn’t it?  When our constitution was originally written, there were plenty of people still without the right to vote.  After a few centuries of amendments and public outcries for equality, we’ve finally extended the right to vote to all citizens… even if they’re too lazy to actually make it out to the polls.  Well, Judson Phillips, president of prominent Tea Party group, Tea Party Nation thinks we’ve gone too far. According to Phillips, we should reconsider our nation’s policy of allowing people to vote who do not own property.

Here’s the full quote, from Tea Party Nation Radio:

“The Founding Fathers originally said, they put certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote. It wasn’t you were just a citizen and you got to vote. Some of the restrictions, you know, you obviously would not think about today. But one of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community. If you’re not a property owner, you know, I’m sorry but property owners have a little bit more of a vested interest in the community than non-property owners.”

You're lucky you own a house, SueLooking around my neighborhood, there are a lot of very civic minded people working to strengthen our community. When I stop to consider who among them owns property, I realize that a good portion of my neighborhood’s do-gooders are in fact renters. Given the Tea Party’s anti big-government stance, I can see how it might benefit them to have all of the nation’s recipients of social services barred from choosing their elected representatives.

On the surface this sounds like the perfect way to ensure that only older, rich, conservative people can vote. In Rochester, and around the country however, home ownership trends are shifting. With the crash in home prices signaling the end of homeowner’s equity-ATM, people are finally starting to realize that a home is not an asset by default, and are considering renting again. Many people who bought a home, raised a family and sent kids to college are realizing that shoveling the driveway and paying $500-$1000 per month in property taxes is not how they want to spend retirement. For $1,000 a month you could have a fantastic 2 bedroom apartment in the heart of one of Rochester’s cultural districts, and never worry about another leak or snow storm.  Thus, while renters are often perceived as less wealthy, or younger than land owners, that’s just not always the way things actually are.

Phillips and his tea-baggers (snicker) need to know that renters are not second class citizens. Renters cut across every demographic and socio-economic level. Otherwise, who’s renting these places? Robbing renters of their right to vote would not only be morally reprehensible, but it would undermine over 150 years of common-sense legislation, and the American belief in a representative government.  Truly, the notion is just silly, which is why I’m not terribly worried that Phillips will get his way.