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  /  News   /  Noncitizens are voting in Washington D.C., is that legal?

Noncitizens are voting in Washington D.C., is that legal?

(NewsNation) —Noncitizen immigrants were able to cast their votes in Washington D.C. Tuesday under a new law that expands voting rights to noncitizen residents in local elections. 

As the law went into effect this week, it also garnered significant pushback and criticism largely from Republican legislators who say only American citizens should have the right to vote.

D.C. has no voting representative in Congress, but the House passed a bill last month to block noncitizen voting in D.C. It’s unlikely the bill will advance forward in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

“I find it inconceivable that the Washington city council would intentionally dilute the voting power of their constituents,” said Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, the bill’s sponsor, reported by the Washington Post.


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The D.C. Board of Elections said it has been inundated with abusive and angry calls from people opposed to noncitizen voting, Monica Evans, the office’s executive director, told The Guardian

“It’s a little disturbing when you get messages like that,” Evans said about the harassment, especially in a non-partisan office “when we show up and we do our job.” 

Is the new law legal?

D.C. legally passed the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act in 2022, but the law went into effect for the first time this week. 

The law removes the citizenship requirement for voting in municipal elections allowing noncitizen residents to vote in local elections. 

Federal law prohibits noncitizens from voting in federal elections, but it does not stop noncitizens from voting in state or local elections. 

Under D.C. law, noncitizens can vote for local officials, local initiatives, referendums, recalls or charter amendment measures. The law also allows noncitizen residents to run for D.C. government roles and serve on the city’s Board of Elections. 


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However, they are given a different ballot from US citizens, which only includes local races, reported The Guardian.

Noncitizens are eligible to vote if they are at least 18 years old as of Election Day, have been a D.C. resident for at least 30 days before the election, have not been deemed by a court legally incompetent to vote and are not claiming the right to vote in any state, territory or country.

The law’s legality could be contested in court but until that happens it will continue to stand.

Can D.C. noncitizens vote in the presidential election?

Noncitizens are barred under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 from voting in federal elections, which includes the presidential election. 

The D.C. law does not allow noncitizens to vote in federal elections. 

Where else is this happening?

Apart from the District of Columbia, three states have municipalities that allow noncitizens to vote in certain local elections, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center

Some cities in Maryland and Vermont permit noncitizens to vote in municipal elections, according to the group.

New York City enacted a law allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections in 2021, but it was ruled unconstitutional by a state judge in 2022. 

San Francisco allows noncitizen residents who are parents and guardians to vote in school board elections with Oakland attempting to enact similar legislation,  according to the group. 

No state currently allows noncitizens to vote in statewide elections.

About how many noncitizens are eligible to vote in D.C.?

According to the Migration Policy Institute, D.C. has nearly 100,000 noncitizen residents. 

If they meet all the criteria required under the D.C. voting law, they could all ostensibly qualify to cast a ballot. 

539 non-citizens have registered to vote this year and about 500 have already done so, according to the D.C. Board of Elections. 

The voters include 310 who registered as Democrat, 169 independent, 28 Republican and 16 Statehood Green, reported The Washington Post.