Under proposed bill from Rep. Sanchez,
cities could allow all residents to vote


STATE HOUSE – Rep. Enrique Sanchez has introduced legislation that would allow cities and towns to expand voting rights in municipal elections to all residents, regardless of immigration status.

“We have lots of people who contribute to our economy and community, but they don’t have a say in their local government,” Representative Sanchez said. “If a city or town wants these individuals to be able to vote, they should have that right.”

The bill (2023 H-5461) would not automatically grant voting rights to non-citizens. Instead, each city and town in the state would have to pass an ordinance extending voting rights if they chose to do so. Voting rights for non-citizens would be limited to the municipal level, meaning these individuals could not vote for statewide or federal offices. Ballots would be collected and counted separately.

Currently two states, Maryland and Vermont, permit municipalities to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections. Similar efforts in New York City and San Francisco are on hold, pending court challenges.

To Representative Sanchez (D-Dist. 9, Providence), the bill would ensure more people have a voice and city services are distributed more fairly.

“People living in our community might not be citizens, but they still pay taxes, still have kids in the schools. They still have to drive around potholes and need police and fire services,” said Representative Sanchez. “Some neighborhoods like mine have lots of immigrants, and these whole neighborhoods have less of a voice because many people can’t vote.”