Can non-citizens vote in US elections?
Federal law prohibits non-citizens from voting in federal elections, including races for president, vice president, Senate or House of Representatives.
The 1996 law states that non-citizens who vote illegally risk a fine, jail time, or both. Non-citizens who vote and get caught can also be deported.
When people in the US register to vote, they affirm that they are US citizens under penalty of perjury. Several states also verify that registration against federal and state databases.
Some politicians and pundits have raised the alarm that non-citizens could vote illegally in large numbers. Studies show this isn’t happening, according to Ron Hayduk, a political science professor at San Francisco State University who studies the voting laws of non-citizens.
While there have been anecdotal reports of non-citizens registering and casting their votes, “the incidence of such events is infinitesimally small,” Hayduk said.
Research by the Brennan Center for Justice in 2017 looked at 42 jurisdictions in the 2016 election and reported that of 23.5 million votes cast, election officials only about 30 cases found of potential votes by non-citizens they have referred for prosecution or further investigation.
More recent surveys have also found no evidence of widespread voting by non-citizens. A Georgia audit of its electoral rolls conducted this year found less than 2,000 cases of non-citizens trying to register to vote in the past 25 years, and none succeeded. Millions of new voters in Georgia registered during that period.
Federal law doesn’t stop states or municipalities from giving non-citizens the right to vote in local races — and a handful have done so, including 11 cities in Maryland and two in Vermont. New York City passed a law this year that allows legally documented non-citizens and “dreamers” to vote for mayor and other elected officials, but a judge blocked the movement in June.
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