YELLOW SPRINGS, Ohio (WDTN) – Voters this November will answer the question of whether certain Ohio residents can vote in local elections after a community in Greene County sparked a statewide ballot issue.
In 2019, The Village of Yellow Springs put a measure on the ballot asking their voters if non-U.S.-citizens should be allowed to vote in local elections. The measure passed with a 60 to 40 split in favor of the measure.
“We have a village value about being a welcoming community to all backgrounds, identities, and so this makes sense for us,” Village Council President Brian Housh said.
Right after, Housh said the village received an order from Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose to cease and desist.
The measure Yellow Springs voters approved would allow the less than 30 non-citizen residents in the Village to vote with a separate ballot, exclusively for local races like school board, village council and tax levies.
“These are individuals that are invested in the community, pay taxes, should be involved in local decision making,” Housh said.
However, some Ohio lawmakers said the Ohio Constitution implies non-citizens cannot vote in any type of election in Ohio.
“The right to vote is the foundation upon our nation was founded, and so we have to protect it and we have to make sure that only the citizens of our country can vote in our elections and elect our elected leaders,” Sen. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg) said.
University of Dayton immigration law professor Ericka Curran disagreed.
“I don’t think it’s clear that it’s implied,” Curran said.
What Issue 2 aims to do is have voters decide if Ohio needs to firm up the language in Ohio’s constitution by amending it to say only U.S. citizens can vote in Ohio, and municipalities cannot set their own rules about it.
Curran said there could be some benefit to allowing non-citizens vote in local elections.
“There are lots of non-citizens who have been long-term permanent residents or lawful visas that run businesses, contribute significantly to our economy and also are engaged at the local level,” Curran said.
Housh said the his amendment is an overstep because Ohio is a “home rule” state, meaning a municipality can adopt a charter as long as it does not go against Ohio law.
“It’s about local control, about, you know, local governments understanding what makes sense for their citizens, and our citizens told us what they wanted,” Housh said.
Issue 2 only deals with local elections and municipalities creating rules allowing non-citizen voters.
Currently, non-citizens cannot vote in state or federal elections. Curran said there are severe consequences, up to deportation, if any non-citizen votes in a federal election.