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I know that Permanent Residents of the US are "generally not allowed to vote" or hold public office but I haven't been able to find more detailed information about their civic rights on the USCIS website. My question can be broken down into several specific ones:

  1. Are there any situations in which permanent residents ARE allowed to vote (local elections, ballot initiatives, primary elections, etc)?
  2. Are permanent residents allowed to join political parties?
  3. Are permanent residents allowed to participate in political campaigns as donors/volunteers/paid staffers?
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    We tend to talk about civil rights. Is that an error? – James K Apr 20 '18 at 16:32
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    @JamesK I don't think that it is. Civil rights refers to freedom from discrimination and other legal rights arising under the Constitutional Bill of Rights for the most part. "Civic Rights" as used in the question refers to rights to participate in the political process by means other than voting or holding public office. – ohwilleke Apr 20 '18 at 16:51
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  • Resident foreigners can vote in some town elections in Maryland. There may be some other types of local elections, such as for school boards, which are based on factors like having a child at the school rather than citizenship. wikipedia

  • Political parties work differently in the USA. You don't really "join", you "register as a supporter". But the only benefit of this is you can vote in primaries. But non-citizens may not register to vote (not even in primaries). See Do the Democratic/Republican parties have any control over their membership and primary voters

  • Green card holders are considered as "non-foreign" for the purpose of political donations. election law analysis

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    Unless I'm mistaken, there is only one MD town that allows residents to vote... and even then I think it's under a court challenge as the citizens were not in favor so the change was made with questionable tactics. I think there are several communities that allow this in California though. – hszmv Apr 20 '18 at 17:12
  • wikipedia lists Takoma Park, Barnesville, Martin's Additions, Somerset, Chevy Chase Sections 3 and 5, Glen Echo, Garrett Park, Hyattsville, and Mount Rainer. in MD. – James K Apr 20 '18 at 17:35
  • In states in which there are political parties, one does need to register as a member of a party in order to vote in primary elections. In those states, one cannot register to be a supporter of both parties and vote in both primaries. NY and NJ are such examples. WA is the opposite: even political candidates in non-federal elections cannot declare a party affiliation (they can state an informal preference though). – grovkin Apr 20 '18 at 17:46
  • School board membership of government schools is not contingent on having a child at the school. It is contingent on being a local resident. All local residents can vote for school board members, as school board members have some power to spend (and in many places levy) tax money. – Brythan Apr 20 '18 at 21:58
  • @Brythan local resident and US citizen, at least in New York, both to serve on a school board and to vote in a school board election. – phoog Apr 23 '18 at 2:26
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Essentially, everything but voting (or holding office) in Federal elections is allowed.

Quote from the FEC:

Individuals: The "green card" exception

The Act does not prohibit individuals with permanent resident status (commonly referred to as “green card holders”) from making contributions or donations in connection with federal, state or local elections, as they are not considered foreign nationals.

Local political activity is more up to the localities. On some level, a state has as much power to create its own laws as a condominium board has a right to creates its bylaws (as long as these state laws don't clash with Federal laws, of course).

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Are there any situations in which permanent residents ARE allowed to vote (local elections, ballot initiatives, primary elections, etc)?

Some special districts (e.g. a ditch association) or proposed special districts (including, e.g. annexation petitions) afford a right to vote based upon property ownership in addition to, or instead of, based upon residency. In those cases, a green card holder who owned property in the district would probably have a right to vote, just as corporations who own property in the district or proposed district can.

Are permanent residents allowed to join political parties?

Usually, you affiliate with the political party by registering to vote, but nothing prohibits a political party from offering non-voter memberships the way that any other organization might, to minors and non-citizens.

Are permanent residents allowed to participate in political campaigns as donors/volunteers/paid staffers?

Generally speaking, yes, but there are some exceptions. For example, Colorado's election laws provide that signatures of petitions for state ballot issues and to put candidates on the ballot may only be circulated by registered voters, which would exclude green card holders. So, in that case, some paid positions would not be available.

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