In November 2024, voters in Iowa will decide on a constitutional amendment related to defining who can vote. The constitutional amendment would do the following:
- prohibit the state and local governments from allowing noncitizens to vote by providing that only a citizen of the U.S., rather than every citizen of the U.S., can vote, and
- provide that 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the general election may vote in primary elections.
To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a simple majority vote is required in both the Iowa State Senate and the Iowa House of Representatives during two successive legislative sessions with an election for state legislators in between.
The constitutional amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 9 on Feb. 10, 2021. It was passed unanimously in both chambers of the legislature during the 2021-2022 legislative session. The measure was also passed unanimously by the state legislature during the 2023-2024 legislative session and was certified for the ballot on April 5, 2023.
All state constitutions mention U.S. citizenship when discussing who can vote in that state’s elections. In 43 states, constitutional language discussing citizenship says who can vote (e.g. “every citizen” or “all citizens”), but does not state that noncitizens cannot vote. In seven states (Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, North Dakota, and Ohio), constitutions provide that citizens, but not noncitizens, have the right to vote.
In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed a law prohibiting noncitizens from voting in federal elections, such as U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and presidential elections. Federal law did not address state or local elections.
At least 15 municipalities across the country allowed noncitizens to vote in local elections as of Feb. 2023.
As of 2023, in 17 states and Washington, D.C., 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the time of the next general election are permitted to vote in that year’s primaries and caucuses.
As of April 2023, the Iowa secretary of state’s website listed the following requirements to register and vote in Iowa:
- must be a U.S. citizen,
- must be an Iowa resident, and
- must be at least 17 years old (18 years old by election day, or for primary elections be 18 by the general or city election to vote).
In Iowa, a total of 17 ballot measures appeared on statewide ballots between 1985 and 2022. Ten were approved, and 7 were defeated.