THE HISTORY OF IMMIGRANT
VOTING RIGHTS IN ILLINOIS
The Immigrant Voting Project and
New York University Law Students for Human Rights
Resident Noncitizen Voting in Illinois:
Illinois has a long history of non-citizen voting. As part of the Northwest Territories, Illinois had a pre-statehood tradition of non-citizen voting. As the Illinois Supreme Court explained:
It is well understood that it was the policy of the congress of the United States, at the formation of the ordinance of 1787, to invite emigration into the northwestern territory. And hence, as one strong inducement for emigration the right of suffrage was extended to aliens in those territories, as they should be successfully formed out of the northwestern territory proper.
Following the pre-statehood tradition, the Illinois Constitution of 1818 extended voting rights to qualified inhabitants regardless of citizenship. In addition, the Congressional Act authorizing Illinois’ Constitutional Convention in 1847 specifically allowed for the participation of non-citizens. Non-citizen voting was not eliminated until the 1848 Illinois Constitution, which nonetheless grandfathered in non-citizen residents of the territory prior to 1848.
Illinois’s current Constitution, adopted in 1970, contains citizenship requirements for voting in state elections:
Every United States citizen who has attained the age of 18 or any other voting age required by the United States for voting in State elections and who has been a permanent resident of this State for at least 30 days next preceding any election shall have the right to vote at such election. The General Assembly by law may establish registration requirements and require permanent residence in an election district not to exceed thirty days prior to an election. The General Assembly by law may establish shorter residence requirements for voting for President and Vice-President of the United States.
Although citizenship remains a requirement for state-level voting, at the local level, Chicago allows non-citizen voting in school council elections. Chicago does not have one school board for the entire city, but rather has decentralized control to local “site councils.” In 1988, the Illinois school code was changed to allow cities with populations of over 500,000 (i.e., for Chicago) to allow all community residents and parents of children in schools, regardless of citizenship, to vote in school site council elections.
 Spragins v. Houghton, 3 Ill. (2 Scam.) 377 (Ill. 1840).
 Ill. Const. Art. 2, §27, Schedule §12 (1818).
 Jamin B. Raskin, Legal Aliens, Local Citizens: The Historical, Constitutional, and Theoretical Meanings of Alien Suffrage, 141 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1391, 1402 (1993).
 Ill. Const. Art. 6, §1 (1848).
 Ill. Const. Art. 3, § 1.
 The relevant portion of the school code is §105 ILCS 5/34-2.1. Local School Councils (d)(ii)(c). “Eligible voters for each attendance center shall consist of the parents and community residents for that attendance center.”
For contemporary initiatives please go to the ILLINOIS MAIN PAGE