The City Council of New York City unanimously passed legislation giving non-U.S. citizens the right to vote in local elections starting on January 9, 2023.

The bill grants this local franchise to 800,000 non-citizens if they are Permanent Residents or have work authorization and have been in residence in the City for at least 30 days. The bill does not allow non-citizens to vote in state or federal elections.

Some who support the legislation question its constitutionality, and the bill will likely face court challenges. Beyond that, the bill is controversial even in the pro-immigration community. Some proponents believe that granting the right to vote in local elections gives immigrants more of a voice and, therefore, more of a stake in the community. Others believe that, because the right to vote is a major reason to obtain citizenship, giving immigrants the right to vote in local elections might suppress their desire to become U.S. citizens.

With the passage of this legislation, New York City joins 15 other municipalities in New York state, Maryland, Vermont, and San Francisco that allow noncitizens to vote in local elections. Similar bills are being considered in Illinois, Maine, and Massachusetts.

Any immigrants who plan to register and vote in local elections pursuant to such laws need to understand the parameters. They may not register to vote or vote in any federal, state, or local elections not covered by the specific legislation. Doing so can result in immigration problems – particularly with applications for permanent residence (Green Cards) or naturalization, which ask applicants about falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen and registering to vote in elections, respectively.

Although registering to vote or voting in an election where non-citizens are eligible to do so is not an immigration violation, it is important for non-U.S. citizens to carefully review any forms they are signing to be sure they are not asserting they are U.S. citizens. They should also take care to not vote in any election that requires U.S. citizenship.

Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to assist with any questions about Green Card or naturalization eligibility and applications.