Yes — Non-citizens Can Legally Vote in the United States.

Catherine Pugh, Esq.
4 min readJan 27, 2023

A quick and dirty primer in American civics.

The Vermont Supreme Court ruled Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, that noncitizen residents may continue to vote in municipal elections in Vermont’s capital city of Montpelier, stating that such voting in local elections doesn’t violate the state constitution. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File). Source: U.S. News and World Report (Jan. 23, 2023).

Can non-citizens vote in FEDERAL elections? No.

A federal election deals with national issues (think voting for the President). Federal law bars non-citizens from helping to decide those issues. Source: Illegal Immigration Reform Act, II(B)216(a)(1).

  • Are non-citizens participating in federal election anyway? Also no. Non-citizen voting is extremely rare, and state investigations have uncovered almost no incidents of non-citizen voting. Source: The Brennan Center for Justice, Non-citizen Voting Vanishingly Rare.

Can non-citizens vote in STATE elections? No.

A state election deals with issues that impact the entire state (think: legalizing marijuana). Non-citizens have been barred from voting in state elections since 1926. Source: Wikipedia Survey, Non-citizen Suffrage in the United States.

Can non-citizens vote in LOCAL elections? Yes; but, it’s state-dependent.

A local election deals w/small-region issues (think: local school board). 14 states have no laws barring non-citizen voting. In the rest, non-citizen voting in any election is a no-go. Source: Ballotpedia, Laws Permitting Noncitizens to Vote in the United States.

  • Are non-citizens voting in local elections? Yes, but it’s exceedingly uncommon. As of December 2022, only 4 states (NY, MD, VT, CA) saw non-citizen voting in 16 of their municipal elections. Source: Ballotpedia, Non-citizen Suffrage in Local Elections.

It goes against everything you think you know about the Constitution and voting.

I understand; I do. And yet, here we are.

I support non-citizen participation in local elections, but as recent news has reminded us, many don’t. No matter your position though, it helps to understanding how non-citizen voting works. Hope this helps!

Be best,

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Catherine Pugh, Esq.

Private Counsel. Former DOJ-CRT, Special Litigation Section, Public Defender; Adjunct Professor (law & undergrad). Developed Race & Law course.