Why Am I Not Registered To Vote?

Lars Poulsen - 2000-06-19

I am not shy about writing to the people elected to represent me in government, but when I do, I often receive back a single piece of paper in reply: A voter registration form. Clearly someone has looked up to see my party affiliation, and found that I am not registered to vote at all.

I understand their puzzlement; if I care so much, why have I not taken the time to register? The answer is simply that I am not eligible, since I am not a United States citizen; rather I am a "permanently resident alien", also known as a "green card holder".

I have lived in California for twenty years, and I like it here. By now, I have worked twice as many years here as I did in my native Denmark, and I have earned a US Social Security pension, as well as lost my eligibility for the Danish government pension system. But still I choose not to apply for naturalization. Why?

The answer is that I love both of my countries very much. One is my mother, the other is my wife. But to claim US citizenship, I would have to "forswear and abjure any allegiance to any foreign potentate", and this I am not ready to do. If I could adopt dual citizenship, I would do it in a minute, but so far neither country likes the idea. Recently the USA is warming up to the thought, but Denmark still considers it treasonous to take on another nationality. In fact, Denmark is so suspicious of people who live outside the country that she won't even let us vote in her national elections. Yet blood is thicker than water, and Queen Margrethe II is as important to me as whoever is President of the US this year.

My wife is of course a registered Democrat, and my daughter holds two passports (legally ... since she was born with both nationalities, she has not commited the offense of taking up a foreign citizenship, which is what both countries frown upon). And since all three of us are either a citizen of or a spouse of a citizen of both the USA and a country of the European Union, we are righfully entitled to residency and work on either continent at any time. This suits us just fine.

All that being said, there are some things in the US system of government that I find strange.

  1. First among them, the notion that politics is about popularity. Where I came from, politics is about ideas, and there is no word for politics that is different from the word for policy.
  2. Second, the expectation that goverment administration is broken and it is the job of elected officials to shepherd the causes of their constituents through the administration. In the "old country" that would be considered a corrupt government practice, and in fact the Danish parliament has established the non-partisan office of the ombudsmand to perform this function of overseeing the administration so that individual elected parliamentarians will not have to do it.
  3. Third, that the country has two conservative parties, and no Labor party.

Follow-up in 2020

Twenty years later, I finally have dual citizenship. I got it so that I could vote against Trump oin the 2016 election. I had hoped to vote for Bernie Sanders in the primary, but the application process took from February to October to work through the system, so I barely got registered in time for the general election.
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