Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Evanston considers proposal allowing documented residents to vote in municipal elections

Illustration by Beatrice Villaflor
The Rules Committee is set to revisit Ald. Devon Reid’s proposal at its next meeting Feb. 5.

As Evanston prepares to become the first city in Illinois to implement ranked-choice voting in its 2025 municipal elections, the city is also set to revisit a proposed ordinance that would allow documented residents without U.S. citizenship to vote in local elections. 

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) introduced the ordinance at the Dec. 4 Rules Committee meeting. He said the change would increase voter turnout by allowing residents who are civically active to more fully participate in their community. 

“I believe it has been the march of our nation to allow more and more folks the right to vote in our elections,” Reid told The Daily. “I think that folks who are members of our community, who are documented legal residents but not quite citizens yet, who are paying taxes, their kids are going to our schools, should have the right to participate in our local democracy.” 

Currently, non-citizens cannot vote in federal or state elections. State Sen. Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago) introduced a bill in 2021 that would allow non-citizens to vote in school board elections. The bill has not been passed. 

As of November 2023, a limited number of municipalities nationwide allowed non-citizens to vote in local elections, including Washington, D.C., San Francisco and several communities in Maryland and Vermont.

“Engaged communities are thriving communities,” Brianne K. Nadeau of the D.C. Council said in a statement to The Daily. “The people you welcome into your community should be encouraged to be civically engaged.” 

However, as Evanston begins implementing another first-of-its-kind electoral change, some say the city may not be able to handle both changes at once. 

More than 82% of Evanston voters approved a referendum in November 2022 supporting a transition to a ranked-choice voting system, in which voters rank each candidate on the ballot in order of preference. Votes from candidates with the fewest votes are then redistributed until one candidate receives a majority of votes. 

Mayor Daniel Biss and Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) and Eleanor Revelle (7th) said during the Dec. 4 Rules Committee meeting that they wanted to ensure ranked-choice voting was implemented in time for the 2025 municipal elections. Interim Corporation Counsel Alexandra B. Ruggie said the Cook County Clerk’s Office has identified potential legal issues with Evanston’s proposed ranked-choice voting system. 

In an interview with The Daily, Nieuwsma said the city should address these issues before discussing Reid’s proposal.

“There would have to be a new registration process to register non-citizen voters,” Nieuwsma said. “The best way to do that would be to collaborate with Cook County, but given the challenges we’ve had with them on ranked-choice voting, it would be ill-advised to try and do two things at once.” 

Reid motioned for city staff and an outside law firm to produce a memo on non-citizen voting. They have plans to present that memo at the next Rules Committee meeting on Feb. 5. The motion passed 6-2. 

He told The Daily he thinks the language of the referendum on ranked-choice voting left many questions about implementation unanswered. He said he feels the city may have rushed to implement ranked-choice voting. 

“Election reform should be about making sure more voters and more voices are heard in order to then affect the outcome,” Reid said. 

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