Chicago, Evanston leaders push for noncitizens to vote in local elections

Chicago, Evanston leaders push for noncitizens to vote in local elections

The surge of migrants to Chicago and Illinois has made noncitizen voting rights an issue. Chicago and Evanston leaders wanted noncitizens to vote in local elections. Illinois Senators wanted to prevent them from voting. Neither side has secured any changes.

Chicago has over 43,000 migrants and about 425,000 noncitizens are in Illinois, so some elected leaders in Chicago and Evanston want to give them voting rights in local elections while some state senators want to prevent their votes.

Noncitizens are currently barred from voting in federal elections by federal law and state elections by the Illinois Constitution. But changes could be made in who is allowed to vote in local elections, such as school boards and municipal offices.

State Sen. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, in 2023 introduced Senate Bill 1345, which would have allowed noncitizens to vote in local school board elections if they had children attending the school district. Villanueva represents the most heavily Hispanic senate district in Illinois and said migrant students make up at least 40% of the Chicago Public Schools student body.

The bill failed to advance.

Evanston Ald. Devon Reid, 8th Ward, 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. “I believe it has been the march of our nation to allow more and more folks the right to vote in our elections,” Reid told The Daily Northwestern at the time.

Because many noncitizens pay their local property taxes and send their children to local schools, Reid argued they ought to be able to participate in local democracy. Evanston’s City Council never voted on the issue.

While those two efforts to allow noncitizens to vote failed, other state leaders want to prevent noncitizens from voting in any elections. Six Republican state senators, led by Sen. Terri Bryant, R-​​Murphysboro, introduced Illinois Senate Constitutional Amendment 14 on March 7, 2024.

The amendment would strike the words “in State Elections” from the Illinois Constitution, meaning noncitizens would not be allowed to vote in local elections, either. The amendment did not receive a vote before the Illinois General Assembly adjourned in May.

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!