Noncitizen Voting Rights in the Global Era: a Literature Review and Analysis

Abstract

Today, people are moving from countryside to city, city to city, and country to country at one of the highest rates in human history. Globalization, poverty, war, persecution, and environmental crises—as well as the pursuit of safety and better economic opportunities—are propelling a mass migration of people from the Global South to the Global North. In response, some countries have limited immigration directly or restricted certain rights and privileges to discourage immigrants. Conversely, other countries have provided refuge and expanded pathways to rights and benefits out of altruism and humanity, economic self-interest, or both. As the pace of global migration has increased, the idea that political rights should follow or accompany immigrants has also grown and gained traction. Voting is one such right. Most countries typically limit voting rights to its citizens. However, during the past several decades, some have extended the franchise to noncitizen residents. In fact, at least forty-five countries presently allow noncitizen residents to vote in their local, regional, or even national elections. What is driving the expansion of noncitizen voting (NCV)? Where and to what ends are such policies being enacted? For this article, the authors conducted a systematic review to examine these questions and assess the implications of enfranchisement for advancing immigrant incorporation and democratic practice.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Identified through expert consultation, these publications did not meet the inclusion criteria of the review. However, their opposing viewpoint is highlighted for important context.

  2. 2.

    This is consistent with a recent survey of local election officials that identified just thirty instances of potential NCV of 23 million ballots cast (Famighetti et al. 2017).

References

  1. Angell, K., & Huseby, R. (2017). Should irregular immigrants be (rapidly) enfranchised? Political Research Quarterly, 70(2), 363–373.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Bauböck, R. (2005). Expansive citizenship--voting beyond territory and membership. PS: Political Science and Politics, 38(4), 693–687.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bevelander, P. (2015). Voting participation of immigrants in Sweden--a cohort analysis of the 2002, 2006, and 2010 elections. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 16(1), 61–80.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Cianetti, L. (2014). Granting local voting rights to non-citizens in Estonia and Latvia: the conundrum of minority representation in two divided democracies. Journal of Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe, 13(1), 86–112.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Coll, K. (2011). Citizenship acts and immigrant voting rights movements in the US. Citizenship Studies, 15(8), 993–1009.

    Google Scholar 

  6. de la Garza, R. O. (2012). Immigrant voting: counterpoint. In J. Gans, E. Replogle, & D. J. Tichenor (Eds.), Debates on U.S. immigration (pp. 105–110). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Dornan v. Sanchez, 978 F. Supp. 1315 (1997).

  8. Douglas, J. A. (2017). The right to vote under local law. George Washington Law Review, 85(4), 1039–1111.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Earnest, D. (2015). Expanding the electorate: comparing the noncitizen voting practices of 25 democracies. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 16(1), 1–25.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Eisenberg, A. (2015). Voting rights for non-citizens: treasure of fool’s gold? Journal of International Migration and Integration, 16(1), 133–151.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Escobar, C. (2017). Migration franchise expansion in Latin America. Global Citizenship Observatory. Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies. https://cadmus.eui.eu//handle/1814/45709. Accessed 18 July 2017.

  12. Fabbrini, F. (2011). Voting rights for noncitizens: the European multilevel and the U.S. federal constitutional systems compared. European Constitutional Law Review, 7(3), 392–423.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Famighetti, C.; Keith, D.; Pérez, M. (2017). Noncitizen voting: the missing millions. Brennan Center for Justice. https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/publications/2017_NoncitizeNCVoting_Final.pdf. Accessed 17 June 2018.

  14. Finck, M. (2015). Towards an ever closer union between residents and citizens European constitutional law review. European Constitutional Law Review, 11(1), 78–98.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Garcia, J. (2011). Immigrants and suffrage: adding to the discourse by integrating state versus national citizenship, dual domestic residency, and dual citizenship. Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy, 24(1), 21–42.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Green M.N. (2007) Race, Party, and Contested Elections to the U.S. House of Representatives. Polity 39(2):155–178.

  17. Gilbert, L. (2014). Reconceiving citizenship: noncitizen voting in New York City municipal elections as a case study in immigrant integration and local governance. Journal on Migration and Human Security, 2(3), 223–250.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Harper Ho, V. (2000). Noncitizen voting rights: the history, the law and current prospects for change. Law and Inequality, 18(2), 271–322.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Hayduk, R. (2015). Political rights in the age of migration: lessons from the United States. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 16(1), 99–118.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Hayduk, R., & Coll, K. (2018). Urban citizenship: campaigns to restore immigrant voting rights in the U.S. New Political Science, 40(2), 336–352.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Hayduk, R., Hackett, K., & Tamashiro Folla, D. (2017). Immigrant engagement in participatory budgeting in New York City. New Political Science, 39(1), 76–94.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Kini, T. (2005). Sharing the vote: noncitizen voting rights in local school board elections. California Law Review, 93(1), 271–322.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Lenard, P. (2015). Residence and the right to vote. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 16(1), 119–132.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Maseko, T. (2010). Voting rights for nationals of the Southern African Development Community countries living in member states. International Journal of African Renaissance Studies, 5(2), 242–254.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Meyer, P. (2014). Citizens, residents, and the body politic. California Law Review, 465–510.

  26. Owen, D. (2011). Transnational citizenship and the democratic state: modes of membership and voting rights critical review of international social and political philosophy. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 14(5), 641–663.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Raskin, J. (1993). Legal aliens, local citizens: the historical, constitutional and theoretical meanings of alien suffrage. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 141(4), 1391–1470.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Renshon, S. A. (2009). Noncitizen voting and American democracy. Rowman & Littlefield.

  29. Rodríguez, C. (2010). Noncitizen voting and the extraconstitutional construction of the polity. International Journal of Constitutional Law, 8(1), 30–49.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Ruth, T., Matusitz, J., & Simi, D. (2017). Ethics of disenfranchisement and voting rights in the US: convicted felons, the homeless, and immigrants. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 42(1), 56–68.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Seidle, L. (2015). Local voting rights for non-nationals: experience in Sweden, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 16(1), 27–42.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Siemiatycki, M. (2015). Non-citizen voting rights and urban citizenship in Toronto. Journal of International Migration and Integration., 16(1), 81–97.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Shelby County, Ala. v. Holder, 679 F.3d 848 (2012).

  34. Song, S. (2009). Democracy and noncitizen voting rights. Citizenship Studies, 13(6), 607–620.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Teney, C., Jacobs, D., Rea, A., & Delwit, P. (2010). Ethnic voting in Brussels: voting patterns among ethnic minorities in Brussels (Belgium) during the 2006 local elections. Acta Politica, 45(3), 273–297.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Triandafyllidou, A. (2015). Reform, counter-reform and the politics of citizenship: local voting rights for third-country nationals in Greece. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 16(1), 43–60.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Varsanyi, M. W. (2005). The rise and fall (and rise?) of non-citizen voting: immigration and the shifting scales of citizenship and suffrage in the United States. Space and Polity, 9(2), 113–134.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Varsanyi, M. W. (2006). Interrogating “urban citizenship” vis-à-vis undocumented migration. Citizenship Studies, 10(2), 229–249.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Vernby, K. (2012). Inclusion and public policy: evidence from Sweden’s introduction of noncitizen suffrage. American Journal of Political Science, 57(1), 15–29.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Wucker, M. (2004). Remittances: the perpetual migration machine. World Policy Journal, 21(2), 37–46.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dan Ferris.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 2 Article results table

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ferris, D., Hayduk, R., Richards, A. et al. Noncitizen Voting Rights in the Global Era: a Literature Review and Analysis. Int. Migration & Integration 21, 949–971 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12134-019-00687-8

Download citation

Keywords

  • Noncitizen voting
  • Immigrant integration
  • Democracy
  • Political participation
  • Citizenship