Resolutions Allowing Noncitizen Voting in Local Elections Face Mixed Results in Maryland

WASHINGTON, D.C — Noncitizens hoping to be enfranchised faced a mixed bag of results in Maryland elections this week, with two cities voting opposite ways on measures that would make progress on the issue.

In Greenbelt, a suburb of Washington, D.C., more than two-thirds of voters supported a referendum that would allow all residents to vote in local elections regardless of their citizenship status. On the contrary, nearby Rockville widely rejected a similar measure — 64% of residents voted against allowing noncitizens to vote locally. 

Neither resolution would have been binding, and city leaders would still have to pass laws to put the measures into practice. Multiple cities adjacent to Rockville and Greenbelt already allow noncitizen voting in local elections, and Maryland is home to more municipalities permitting noncitizen voting than any other state. 

Noncitizen voting has become an increasingly contentious topic, with legislation and litigation over the issue taking place in multiple states throughout the country. 

Earlier this year in Burlington, Vermont’s largest city, voters approved an amendment to their city charter that would allow some noncitizens to vote in local elections. The Vermont Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, put the legislation into effect months later after overcoming Gov. Phill Scott’s (R) veto.

A statute allowing noncitizen voting in a different Vermont city, Montpelier, was the subject of a Republican lawsuit filed in part by the Republican National Committee, but the Vermont Supreme Court upheld the statute. 

New York City passed a similar law that allowed legal residents, including those with green cards and Dreamers, who have lived in the city for at least 30 consecutive days to vote in municipal elections. That law was struck down last year, however, after a New York court ruled it violated the state’s constitution. An appeal in the case is pending. 

Drama over noncitizen voting has also made its way to the nation’s capital. A Washington, D.C. law allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections went into effect in February of this year. Enactment of the legislation came just weeks after the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution to overturn it, though that effort failed in the Democrat-led Senate. (Congress has the power to review all legislation passed by the Washington D.C. City Council.) 

After the legislation became law, a right-wing legal group challenged the act, claiming in a lawsuit that the legislation “dilutes the vote of every U.S. citizen voter in the district” and “unlawfully discriminates against U.S. citizens living in D.C” in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

House Republicans have also attacked noncitizen voting as part of their American Confidence in Elections (ACE) Act, legislation that has been described as “the most conservative election integrity bill to be seriously considered in the House in over 20 years.” 

A provision in the bill text prohibits noncitizens voting in federal elections — a redundant measure given that federal law already bans noncitizens from voting in federal elections. The laws allowing noncitizens to vote in municipalities like Burlington pertain to local elections only. 

While the provision surrounding federal law would have no practical effect, it serves as red meat for Republicans casting doubt on election results across the country, sometimes doing so by falsely claiming that wide numbers of noncitizens voted in federal elections.

Read more about noncitizen voting here.

Read more about the ongoing lawsuit over New York City’s noncitizen voting law here.