Does one have to be a US citizen to vote (or run) in municipal elections?

For example, can a permanent resident vote for mayor? Or run for city council?

  • A person must be registered to vote and a citizen in order to vote. The fact that noncitizens do cast ballots mean that they are acting illegally and are subject to arrest. Feb 15, 2017 at 1:17
  • 2
    @sabbahillel according to wikipedia, "A few local governments, most of them in Maryland, allow non-citizens to vote in their local elections." So noncitizens voting in those elections are not breaking any law by doing so.
    – phoog
    Feb 15, 2017 at 4:00
  • @abelenky Link not found. Note that even those that say that he was incorrect about saying that millions of nonregistered voters cast ballots say that it may have been only 800,000. Feb 19, 2017 at 22:06
  • 1
    @sabbahillel: "The fact that noncitizens cast ballots" This simply does not happen. (despite our President's claims otherwise) (link corrected) See brennancenter.org/blog/… I have never heard a remotely reputable source that puts illegal votes above a few dozen nationwide.
    – abelenky
    Feb 19, 2017 at 22:36
  • @abelenky Quoting from Jesse Richmonds study which claims to disprove the use of millions. How many non-citizens participate in U.S. elections? More than 14 percent of non-citizens in both the 2008 and 2010 samples indicated that they were registered to vote. Furthermore, some of these non-citizens voted. Our best guess, based upon extrapolations from the portion of the sample with a verified vote, is that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent of non-citizens voted in 2010. Feb 20, 2017 at 2:39

2 Answers 2


It varies depending on the place. Eligibility to vote in local elections is determined by state and local law, and there are some places where one does not have to be a US citizen to vote in municipal elections. (Not sure about running in elections.)

Here are some examples of municipalities in Maryland that I found explicit statements for currently allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections:

  • Takoma Park, Maryland

    City residents who are not citizens of the United States can register to vote in Takoma Park elections by completing the Takoma Park Voter Registration Application.

  • Hyattsville, Maryland

    Hyattsville residents who are not U.S. citizens, or do not wish to register with the State, may use the Hyattsville City Voter Registration Form.

  • Somerset, Maryland

    To be a qualified voter in Somerset, a resident must be:


    • A citizen of the United States of America or an alien legally authorized to reside in the United States
  • Martin's Additions, Maryland

    Non-U.S. citizens are allowed to vote.

  • Chevy Chase Section 3, Maryland

    Anyone age 18 or older who is a resident of Section 3 is a qualified voter regardless of citizenship or ownership status.

  • Garrett Park, Maryland (town website is down but archived version exists)

    A Garrett Park resident who is not a United States citizen is permitted to vote in all Town elections.

  • Glen Echo, Maryland

    Any person who is not a United States citizen, and (a) is a resident of the Town of Glen Echo,(b) is a lawful resident of the United States, and (c) except for the United States citizenship requirement, meets the voter qualifications provided in Section 501(a) may register to vote in Town elections, as set forth in Charter Section 506.

  • Mt. Rainier, Maryland - passed resolution effective on Feb 23, 2017

    A Resolution to amend Article V, Registration, Nomination, and Election Procedures, Sections 502 and 503 of the Charter of the City of Mount Rainier to allow all Mount Rainier residents, regardless of their nationality or immigration status, to vote in City elections by registering with the Mount Rainier Board of Elections [...]

  • I think there are more

Historically, many more places used to allow non-citizens to vote. According to Wikipedia, at least 40 states and territories had at one time allowed non-citizens to vote in some type of election. And a recent non-Maryland example is that non-citizens who had children in public schools in New York City could vote in school board elections prior to 2002.


All states require voters to be U.S. citizens, according to Infoplease on their Residency Requirements for Voting page, citing responses from questionnaires to all the states as their source:

Note, for all states, in order to register to vote, an applicant must be a U.S. citizen, a legal resident of the state, and 18 years old on or before election day.

Note that there is no federal law governing voting eligibility requirements for state and local elections. (The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 establishes standards for elections involving federal offices. ("The term 'Federal office' means the office of President or Vice President, or of Senator or Representative in, or Delegate or Resident Commissioner to, the Congress," 2 U.S.C. § 431 : US Code - Section 431.)

States establish their own laws and regulations for administering elections and establishing the governments of counties and cities. Those entities may have their own eligibility requirements, which generally include U.S. citizenship.

For example,San Diego, here are the requirements to run for City Council:

To run for office, you must be a U. S. citizen, and at least 18 years old. Also, you must be a registered voter of the district you want to serve for at least 30 days prior to the date you file your nomination papers and a resident and registered voter of that district at the time of assuming the office. Running for City-wide office? You may be a resident and registered voter anywhere in the City. Running for a Council seat? You must reside in and be a registered voter of that district.

Sacramento has similar regulations:

Any member of the public who meets the requirements below may run for public office in the City of Sacramento. Candidates must:

  • Be at least eighteen years of age
  • Be a citizen of the United States and a resident of the State of California
  • Be a registered voter and a resident within the district the candidate seeks to represent for not less than 30 days preceding the date of filing candidate papers. Registration will be verified before issuance of nomination papers.

In Louisiana, Orleans Parish specifies the citizenship requirement directly for some offices, and in other requires the officeholder to be a voter or qualified elector, which requires U.S. citizenship.

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