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Voters cast their ballots using electronic counting machines at a polling site inside The Shed arts center, Nov. 8, 2022, in the Hudson Yards neighborhood of the Manhattan borough of New York. (AP) Voters cast their ballots using electronic counting machines at a polling site inside The Shed arts center, Nov. 8, 2022, in the Hudson Yards neighborhood of the Manhattan borough of New York. (AP)

Voters cast their ballots using electronic counting machines at a polling site inside The Shed arts center, Nov. 8, 2022, in the Hudson Yards neighborhood of the Manhattan borough of New York. (AP)

Madison Czopek
By Madison Czopek January 19, 2024

Do ‘illegal immigrants now have the right to vote in New York’? No, that’s False.

If Your Time is short

  • Only U.S. citizens may vote in statewide and national elections in New York. 

  • A 2021 New York City law involving local elections gave voting privileges to noncitizens who are in the U.S. legally, but a judge struck down that law  in 2022 and it’s not in effect.

  • Before it was ruled unconstitutional in New York, the law did not grant voting rights to anyone in the country illegally. The ruling is on appeal.

  • Our mission: Help you be an informed participant in democracy. Learn more.

As the first votes in the 2024 presidential race are cast, social media users are sharing misinformed claims about U.S. voting laws.

In one example, bright red text overlaid on a Dec. 18 Instagram video claimed, "Illegal immigrants now have the right to vote in New York."

The video featured a Dec. 5 House Homeland Security Committee hearing and tied the claim to a New York City voting law.

"Mr. Blakeman, let me ask you a question," Rep. Josh Brecheen, R-Okla., said during the hearing. "Can illegal immigrants in New York vote?"

Bruce Blakeman, county executive for Nassau County, New York, responded: "In New York City, I believe they passed a law. Luckily, we don’t have that law in Nassau County. But in the city council and mayoral races, I believe illegal aliens recently have been given the right to vote."

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

(Screenshot from Instagram.)

Blakeman’s comments in the clip misrepresented a New York City law that allowed noncitizens in the U.S. legally to vote in some municipal elections. The post’s claim that immigrants in the country illegally can vote in New York is wrong. 

"There is no law allowing noncitizens to vote statewide in New York" or any other state, said Joshua Douglas, a professor at the University of Kentucky’s J. David Rosenberg College of Law who researches election law and voting rights. 

Only citizens are permitted to vote in New York statewide elections

Under federal law, only U.S. citizens may vote in national elections. 

Susan Lerner, the executive director of the voting rights group Common Cause New York, said that only U.S. citizens can vote in New York state.

In 2021, New York City lawmakers approved legislation that allowed about 800,000 noncitizen New York residents to vote in municipal elections, assuming they had lived in the city for 30 days and were legal permanent residents of the U.S. or had work authorization. This appears to be the law Blakeman referred to during the hearing

The legislation neither allowed noncitizens to vote in statewide or federal elections, nor extended voting rights to immigrants in the country illegally. 

"Permanent residents and people authorized to work here are documented and approved by the federal government," Lerner said. "They pay state and federal taxes, and pay into Social Security as well. In many cases, they’ve lived in the United States for decades. There is nothing ‘illegal’ about them." 

The measure never took hold.

In June 2022, before the law could even take effect, a New York judge struck it down for violating the state constitution, which says that "every citizen" is entitled to vote. That decision is being appealed. Oral arguments were held in June, but no decision has been handed down. 

"Even if the appeals court rules in favor of the city, allowing (New York City) to implement the law, again, it would only allow legal residents who are not U.S. citizens" to vote, said Ron Hayduk, a political science professor at San Francisco State University. It would not grant the right to vote to immigrants in New York illegally, as the post suggested. 

Across the U.S., more than a dozen cities have taken steps to allow noncitizens to vote in some local elections, including some cities in California, Maryland and Vermont, Hayduk said. Noncitizen voting in elections is generally limited to municipal elections and is not widespread, however. 

Furthermore, fraudulent voter registration or voting by noncitizens is rare and usually occurs as a result of a misunderstanding or mistake, such as a noncitizen accidentally registering to vote when applying for a driver’s license. 

Our ruling

A video post claimed, "Illegal immigrants now have the right to vote in New York."

Only U.S. citizens can vote in statewide and national elections in New York. 

A 2021 law in New York City allowed about 800,000 noncitizens the right to vote in local elections, but a judge struck down that law in 2022 and it’s not in effect. Even if the measure were reinstated, it granted voting rights only to noncitizens who were legal permanent residents or had U.S. work authorization, not anyone in the country illegally. 

We rate this claim False. 

RELATED: Trump's claim that millions of immigrants are signing up to vote illegally is Pants on Fire!

Our Sources

Instagram post, Dec. 18, 2023

Email interview with Joshua Douglas, a professor at the University of Kentucky’s Rosenberg College of Law, Jan. 18, 2024

Email interview with Ron Hayduk, a political science professor at San Francisco State University, Jan. 17, 2024

Email interview with Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, Jan. 17, 2024

Email exchange with Jerry H. Goldfeder, legal counsel for the New York City board of elections, Jan. 18, 2024

Email exchange with Carla Laroche, Felder-Fayard Associate Professor of Law at Tulane University Law School, Jan. 19, 2024

Email exchange with Kathleen R. McGrath, the director of public information for the New York State Board of Election, Jan. 19, 2024

Forbes, ‘Can Illegal Immigrants In New York Vote?’: Josh Brecheen Grills Witnesses On Migrant Crisis, Dec. 16, 2023

Homeland Security Republicans, Protecting our Preparedness: Assessing the Impact of the Border Crisis on Emergency Management, Dec. 5, 2023

Nassau County, County Executive, accessed Jan. 18, 2024

PolitiFact, Tucker Carlson feigned ignorance over ‘great replacement theory,’ despite talking about it often, May 19, 2022

PolitiFact, Ramaswamy’s Pants on Fire claim that the Democratic platform includes the ‘great replacement theory,’ Dec. 13, 2023

PolitiFact, What is the ‘great replacement theory’ linked to the Buffalo shooter? May 16, 2022

PolitiFact, Pence falsely says if HR 1 passes, millions of people in US illegally will be registered to vote, March 5, 2021

Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute, 18 U.S. Code § 611 - Voting by aliens, accessed Jan. 18, 2024

New York Times, New York Moves to Allow 800,000 Noncitizens to Vote in Local Elections, Nov. 23, 2021

The Associated Press, Judge says NYC can’t let noncitizens vote in city elections, June 27, 2022

NPR, New York City will allow 800,000 noncitizens to vote in local elections, Dec. 15, 2021

Reuters, New York judge rules law allowing noncitizens to vote for mayor is unconstitutional, June 27, 2022 

PIX11, The fight for noncitizen voting is taking place in NYC, June 23, 2023

NY.gov, New York State Constitution, Jan. 1, 2022

CBS News, Court upholds San Francisco allowing noncitizens to vote in school board elections, Aug. 8, 2023

The Oaklandside, Complete results: Oakland 2022 election, Nov. 8, 2022

City & State New York, Appeals court considers arguments for non-citizen voting, June 23, 2023

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Do ‘illegal immigrants now have the right to vote in New York’? No, that’s False.

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