WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Saturday, Dec. 10, Louisiana voters headed to the polls for the state’s runoff election and approved three constitutional amendments, one of which requires U.S. citizenship to vote. Over 73% of voters supported the amendment, which adds the following language to the Louisiana Constitution: “No person who is not a citizen of the United States shall be allowed to register and vote in this state.” Louisiana already banned anyone who is “not a citizen of the state” from voting, but this change is part of a larger trend of states proactively preventing noncitizen voting in response to a false and reactionary belief that noncitizens are voting illegally in U.S. elections. There is no evidence supporting such claims, which are often fueled by an anti-immigrant sentiment.
Before 2020, only Arizona and North Dakota specified in their state constitutions that noncitizens do not have the right to vote in either state or local elections (federal law prohibits noncitizens from voting in federal elections). Alabama, Colorado and Florida joined the list in 2020 when voters approved ballot measures that mirrored the new one recently adopted by Louisiana. This year, in the Nov. 8 midterm elections, Ohio voters approved a measure to prohibit local governments from extending the right to vote to noncitizens. Since no Ohio local government has expanded the right to vote in such a way, the amendment will not actually change anything about who is currently allowed to vote in the Buckeye State.
While only U.S. citizens can vote in federal elections, some cities or towns have proactively allowed permanent, noncitizen residents to vote in local elections. Notably, New York City passed such a law last year, extending the right to vote in elections for New York City offices (such as mayor, city council, borough president, etc.) to legal permanent residents, a narrow subset of noncitizens. The law is currently in litigation.
Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin (R) noted his support for the recently passed amendment, adding: “This vote sends a clear message that the radical election policies of places like San Francisco, New York City, and Washington, D.C. have no place in Louisiana.”