Can noncitizens vote in Illinois? Depends on the election

Can noncitizens vote in Illinois? Depends on the election

The influx of migrants to Chicago and Illinois presents a potential voting bloc ahead of the 2024 election. Some politicians have tried to get them the vote. Others have tried to prevent it.

Illinois has about 425,000 noncitizens and Chicago 43,000 migrants, representing potential votes elected leaders either want or want to stop.

State Sen. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, in 2023 sponsored a bill that would have allowed noncitizens to vote in local school board elections. Evanston Ward 8 Ald. Devon Reid introduced an ordinance in late 2023 that would allow noncitizen residents with legal status, such as those with green cards, to vote in Evanston local elections.

Both of those efforts stalled. The same thing happened to an effort by six Illinois Senate members to ensure noncitizens would not be allowed to vote in local elections.

So what are the rules about noncitizens voting? It depends on the level of government. Here are the current rules.

Noncitizens cannot vote in federal elections

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996 states it is illegal for noncitizens to vote in federal elections. 8 U.S. Code § 1182 and 8 U.S. Code § 1227 further state noncitizens who violate the law are ineligible to be admitted to the U.S. or receive visas and can be deported.

Illinois Constitution prohibits noncitizens from voting in state elections

The Illinois state constitution contains language referring to U.S. citizenship when discussing eligibility to vote in state elections. Article III Section I of the Illinois Constitution states “Every United States citizen who has attained the age of 18 or any other voting age required by the United States for voting in State elections and who has been a permanent resident of this State for at least 30 days next preceding any election shall have the right to vote at such election.”

Local governments can allow noncitizens to vote in local elections

Municipalities in Illinois can extend voting rights to noncitizens if they are not explicitly barred from doing so at the federal or state level. Only seven states’ constitutions explicitly prohibit noncitizens from voting in local elections. Municipalities in three states – California, Maryland and Vermont plus Washington, D.C. – currently allow noncitizens to vote in local elections.

The two efforts in Evanston and Chicago both stalled.

The bottom line

Noncitizens are unable to vote in federal or state elections in Illinois. There are no municipalities in Illinois that currently allow noncitizens to vote in local elections, but there are no legal impediments to local leaders changing that.

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