On November 12, 2019, Colorado Citizen Voters, sponsors of Colorado Initiative 76, announced having collected and submitted around 200,000 signatures to qualify the initiative for the 2020 ballot. To qualify for the ballot, 124,632 valid signatures are required.
This measure would amend the Colorado Constitution to state that only citizens of the United States are qualified electors in Colorado.
Constitution as it presently exists: Every citizen of the United States who has attained the age of eighteen years, has resided in this state for such a time as may be prescribed by law, and has been duly registered as a voter if required by law shall be qualified to vote at all elections.
Proposed change under the ballot measure: Only a citizen of the United States who has attained the age of eighteen years, has resided in this state for such a time as may be prescribed by law, and has been duly registered as a voter if required by law shall be qualified to vote at all elections.
Similar amendments are certified to appear on the 2020 ballot in Alabama and Florida.
Voters in North Dakota decided on a similar measure, Measure 2, in 2018. The measure amended the North Dakota Constitution to state that “only a citizen” rather than “every citizen” of the U.S. can vote in federal, state, and local elections. Measure 2 was approved by a vote of 66% to 34%.
Voters in San Francisco approved a measure, Proposition N, in 2016 which allowed non-citizens to register to vote in school board elections. New York City allowed non-citizens to vote in local school board elections from 1968 to 2003 until the city abolished elected school boards. As of 2019, 11 cities in Maryland, including Hyattsville, Mount Rainier, and Takoma Park allowed non-citizens to vote. Chicago has allowed non-citizens to vote and serve on its school councils since 1989.
All state constitutions mention United States citizenship when discussing who can vote in that state’s elections. State constitutional language discussing citizenship is inclusive in most states, meaning the language states who can vote (e.g. “every citizen” or “all citizens”), but does not state that non-citizens cannot vote. Arizona and North Dakota have exclusive language, meaning the states’ constitutions require voters to be U.S. citizens exclusively.
Twenty-one (21) states use the specific phrase “Every citizen of the United States…” when discussing who is a qualified elector. An additional 16 states use the word “every” but structure the sentence differently. Six states use the word “all” or “any” when discussing citizenship and suffrage. Six other states have some other way of phrasing the sentence. For example, Virginia’s constitution says “Each voter shall be a citizen of the United States” and includes a section in the Bill of Rights that says, “all elections ought to be free; and that all men, having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to, the community, have the right of suffrage.” North Dakota is the only state to use the phrase “Only a citizen of the United States…” after having changed it from “every” via a constitutional amendment in 2018.