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Noncitizen Voting Is Illegal

Noncitizens are not permitted to vote in federal elections, and instances of noncitizen voting are rare.

Published: March 1, 2024
View the entire Election Rumors in 2024 series

Fact: Noncitizens are not permitted to vote in federal elections, and instances of noncitizen voting are very rare.

Federal law prohibits noncitizens from voting in federal elections. Election processes are full of checks to identify ineligible voter registrants. Under federal law, states are required to conduct regular list maintenance to remove ineligible voters from the rolls. Many states also participate in the Electronic Registration Information Center, which allows states to compare their voter rolls across state lines and ensure lists are accurate and up to date.

All voters’ names and addresses are recorded, and ineligible voters face severe penalties, such as jail time or deportation. A noncitizen working toward naturalization could be denied citizenship for merely being registered to vote. State-led investigations by Republican and Democratic officials have found almost no instances of noncitizen voting. Similarly, investigations by news organizations, law enforcement departments, and universities have found that noncitizen voting is extraordinarily rare

Rumor: Noncitizens are voting in federal elections.

With significant political attention on our domestic borders, false allegations that noncitizens are fraudulently casting ballots are circulating on social media. As voter list maintenance procedures are complicated and often boring, members of the public are generally unaware of the many procedures in place to keep our voter files accurate and up to date, as well as the safeguards that prevent noncitizens and other ineligible voters from registering and casting ballots. Bad actors are exploiting this education gap to spread false information and erode trust in the integrity of our elections.

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We worked with Swayable, a research software platform that measures how effectively media content changes opinions, to determine what messages helped voters best understand the facts. 

Suggested counter-messages based on our testing:

  • States have multiple systems in place to deter noncitizen voting. Those who violate the law face prison time and deportation.
  • Noncitizen voting is already illegal: to register, you must swear you’re a citizen under penalty of criminal prosecution.

The messages above were found to be most effective in communicating the facts, though differences exist by region and demographic group. See this dashboard to examine more detailed results for the first counter-message, including other messages tested. See this dashboard to examine more detailed results for the second counter-message, including other messages tested.