The Dangers Of Voting By Non-Citizens

The Dangers Of Voting By Non-Citizens

Only U.S. citizens may vote in federal elections.  This would include voting for the president, U.S. Senators, or members of the U.S. House of Representatives.  If a non-citizen registers to vote or votes in a U.S. federal election, it could have severe immigration consequences, including being stripped of their green card and/or being deported.  This includes lawful permanent residents (LPR)/green card holders and non-immigrants, whether in or out of status.

In addition, claiming to be a U.S. citizen in order to register to vote or vote in any state or local election (including an initiative, recall, or referendum) could also have severe immigration consequences.

Many well-meaning and progressive municipalities are passing laws allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections, such as for the school board, mayor, etc.  In such a case, registering to vote on a local voter registration application would not be considered an unlawful act if the person is eligible to vote under the relevant local law.

However, laws allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections could be dangerous, and if you are a non-citizen, you should proceed with extreme caution.  The reason is that it can be confusing, and a non-citizen may mistakenly register to vote and/or vote in a federal election and for federal officials.  Many ballots have a mix of federal and local candidates and measures or propositions.  There, the non-citizen must be very careful about whether the law actually lets them vote for local candidates and measures, AND make sure they don’t vote for the federal portion of the ballot.

In addition, it is so easy to inadvertently register to vote by mistakenly claiming to be a U.S. citizen.  For example, when a person goes to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to renew their driver’s license, the form includes a section enabling the person to register to vote.  I have seen many cases where a non-citizen started at the top of the form and just kept filling it out, without realizing they had also filled out and signed the portion enabling them to register to vote.  Those forms typically include a question asking if they are a U.S. citizen; they may have checked “yes” by mistake.

Also, outside of many shopping centers, there are people with clipboards asking if the person wants to register to vote.  Sometimes the non-citizen asks if it’s okay, and the person with the clipboard, not being knowledgeable about U.S. immigration law, assures them there’s no problem and fills out the form for the non-citizen to sign.  Or, the person is not even asked if they are a U.S. citizen.

I am not trying to discourage anyone from voting in local elections if they are legally allowed to do so.  However, I want to warn and caution you about the risks and dangers of inadvertently registering to vote or voting in federal elections and/or where it is prohibited by local law.

If you have mistakenly registered to vote or voted in elections when not allowed to do so, you should consult with an attorney who can evaluate your situation, especially before applying for naturalization, as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may check voter registration rosters to see if your name appears on it.



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