CURRENT IMMIGRANT VOTING PRACTICES IN THE U.S. AND EFFORTS TO RESTORE IMMIGRANT VOTING
Currently, seven jurisdictions allow noncitizen residents to vote in local elections:
- Six towns in Maryland : Takoma Park, Barnesville, Martin’s Additions, Somerset, Garrett Park, and Chevy Chase Section
- Most of these towns, all in Montgomery County, have allowed noncitizen voting for at least two decades, some for longer.
- Chicago in local school site elections (since 1988)
- NYC also allowed noncitizens to vote in the Community School Board elections (1969-2002).
Note: All of the above jurisdictions provide voting rights to both the documented and undocumented.
Another dozen jurisdictions have considered restoring immigrant voting rights (listed below). Some legislation would provide voting rights only to the documented, while other campaigns would extend voting rights to all noncitizens regardless of status. Some measures have been voted on by a majority of the voters in a jurisdiction (ballot proposal) while other measures have been passed by elected representatives as local laws.
Washington D.C. :
In 2015, legislation was re-introduced into the D.C. City Council by David Grasso, which would grant voting rights to legal permanent residents in local elections. This legislation is similar to legislation first introduced there in 2004.
In 2014, the City Council of Burlington approved a measure that put a ballot measure for voters to consider, which would give Legal Permanent Residents (“green card holders”) the right to vote in local elections. The measure will need state enabling legislation to implement the law.
The measure was defeated in March 2015 by 56% to 44%. For more information, see http://ivotevermont.org
Beginning in the 1990s, Amherst, Cambridge, Newton, and Brookline Massachusetts (2010) have passed home rule petitions that would allow resident immigrants who are not U.S. citizens to vote in their local elections, but these towns need state enabling legislation to implement their local laws. In 2014, Amherst again passed its home rule petition for immigrant voting rights. Boston considered a similar bill in 2008 but it lost in the Council by a vote of 8-7.
After a near win of Proposition F in 2004 (which lost by 51% to 49%), San Francisco advocates re-grouped and got close again. In 2010, voters in San Francisco narrowly defeated a ballot proposal (Proposition D) by a margin of 54.91% to 45.09 % that would have granted all parents and guardians of children in the public school system voting rights in school board elections, regardless of their immigrant status. Advocates and legislators there — and in several other jurisdictions, including San Bernardino, Pomona, San Diego, and Los Angeles — have considered campaigns but have yet to fully launch them.
In 2010, Voters in Portland Maine considered a ballot proposal that narrowly lost by a margin of 53% to 47% which would have granted voting rights in all municipal elections to legal permanent residents.
New York City:
Advocates formed the Coalition to Expand Voting Rights in 2004 and have successfully pressed for the introduction of legislation in 2005, 2009, and 2010. The legislation gained support of a majority of City Council members in 2013, and are poised to reintroduce the legislation in 2015.
The legislation, if passed, would allow all residents legally residing in the U.S. to vote in municipal elections.
During the mid-2000s, the Minnesota Coalition for the Expansion of Voting Rights worked with state representatives from St. Paul and Minneapolis, which led to the introduction of legislation to allow “permanent resident aliens” to vote in local elections. In 2005, five Minnesota state representatives (including representatives Kahn, Clark, Mariani, Davnie and Ellison) introduced a resident noncitizen voting rights initiative in 2005, called H.F. 818, for legal permanent residents.
Other cities and states that have considered restoring immigrant voting rights– including Puerto Rico, New Jersey, New Haven Connecticut, Madison, Wisconsin, Carboro, North Carolina, Texas, Denver Colorado, and Florida.
Ron Hayduk, Professor
Department of Political Science, Queens College, CUNY
917-691-4153 (cell) – 718-997-5480 (office)