Kentucky voters to decide on amendment to prohibit noncitizen voting

Kentucky voters will decide on a constitutional amendment that would prohibit noncitizen voting in elections on Nov. 5, 2024.

The constitutional amendment would add language to the Kentucky Constitution to provide that “no person who is not a citizen of the United States shall be allowed to vote in this state.”

Noncitizens cannot vote or register to vote in Kentucky for any state or local elections. In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed a law prohibiting noncitizens from voting in federal elections, including elections for the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and presidential elections. This does not apply to elections at the state and local levels.

Certain municipalities in three states—California, Maryland, and Vermont—as well as the District of Columbia, allow for noncitizens to vote in local elections.

The amendment, which was introduced as Senate Bill 143 (SB 143), passed the State Senate by 31-4 on Feb. 12, 2024. The amendment passed the State House of Representatives by 72-12 on March 15, 2024. In Kentucky, for a constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot, it must receive a three-fifths (60%) majority in both houses of the state legislature. Following legislative approval, the amendment does not require the governor’s signature but must be ratified by the voters in a general election.

State Sen. Jason Howell (R-1), who sponsored SB 143, said, “This is about protecting citizens and the thousands of people who’ve lawfully navigated the immigration process. One of the rewards of doing so is earning the right to vote … It’s odd we don’t already have this spelled out in our constitution. While this is specifically prohibited at the federal level, it isn’t addressed here in Kentucky.”

State Sen. David Yates (D-37), who voted against the amendment, said, “I too would not want someone who’s not a citizen of the United States to be voting in our elections. But that’s not happening. And I don’t think there’s any fear of it happening since it’s already in Kentucky’s constitution.”

This will make Kentucky the third state to vote on a citizenship voting requirement amendment in 2024. Voters in both Iowa and Wisconsin will also be deciding on constitutional amendments requiring citizenship to vote in elections.

Previously, voters in Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, North Dakota, and Ohio have decided on citizenship voting requirement amendments. All amendments were approved.