With the election season around the corner, it’s worthwhile to ask the important question of whether you, as an immigrant, can vote or not.
In this article, we’ll discuss the 2020 US Presidential elections and immigrants’ voting ability.
Can Permanent Residents Vote In The 2020 Election?
As a permanent resident, you’ll notice little difference between you and a regular US citizen.
Probably you arrived in the US as a K-1 visa holder and later adjusted to a green card. You’re working, moving in and out of the US, staying anywhere you want, and receiving federal benefits. But things differ when it comes to casting your vote for the elections.
In the US, voting takes place at three levels: federal, state, and local. As per the rules, generally, lawful permanent residents aren’t allowed to cast their votes unless they become naturalized US citizens.
Furthermore, you need to meet each state’s residency requirements along with the age requirement, which is at least 18 years on the election day.
There are exceptions in state and local elections, though, depending on your state of residence. For example, New York permanent residents can vote in for local elections after the bill was introduced in the City Council. So, almost 1 million NYC residents who aren’t citizens got the right to vote.
Will New Permanent Residents Get To Vote In 2020?
As mentioned earlier, permanent residents are not allowed to vote in elections. So, if you’re a permanent resident, you would not be able to vote in the upcoming November 2020 presidential election. That is unless you become a naturalized citizen.
If you’re in the process of getting naturalized before November of 2020, then only you’ll be able to cast your vote in the federal elections. The requirement is that you must be naturalized and not in the middle of the process.
So you must have gone through the following process:
So by November of 2020, when the presidential election is set to take place, you must have taken the Oath of Allegiance.
Why Won’t Some Citizenship Applicants Get To Vote In 2020?
It was reported that almost 110,000 people were supposed to complete the Oath of Allegiance this year. They successfully went through the naturalization process, starting from checking their eligibility to get naturalized.
After completion, they were supposed to get American citizenship by the end of July. So, these immigrants were all set to cast their votes in the 2020 federal election. The only process that was unfinished was the 140-word oath ceremony.
This was supposed to take place in June. But things didn’t turn out as planned. Now, these permanent residents are at the risk of not being able to cast their votes in the 2020 elections.
The Coronavirus Pandemic
You can rightfully blame this on the coronavirus pandemic that is said to have originated in Wuhan, China.
This deadly infectious disease has disrupted normal lifestyle and forced cities under lockdown. The USCIS, too, was forced to close the offices to prevent the spread of the disease among the workers and people that it serves.
It was not before June that USCIS resumed part of its operation — the month when permanent residents were supposed to get naturalized. Now some of the offices are open, and oath ceremonies have resumed. But officials speculate they’ll not be able to process all the pending applications by November of this year.
This puts over 300,000 people at risk of not being able to cast their vote in the November elections.
Citizenship Interviews On Hold
It’s not only the Oath of Allegiance but also the interviews that remain paused for the moment.
USCIS field offices remain either closed or restricted to emergency services. Since citizenship interviews are not considered an emergency under normal circumstances, the officials aren’t conducting the interviews as they should be.
Moreover, interviews are face-to-face conversations. This imposes the risk of the spread of the virus.
Given the rapid growth in COVID-19 cases across America, the interviews might not take place anytime soon.
What Is The Future Outlook For The Disenfranchised Green Card Applicants?
Every year, permanent residents who take the Oath of Allegiance between April and August get American citizenship within two months.
But this year, things look different. In California alone, 20% of all residents are looking forward to getting naturalized. But all they can do is wait for the pandemic to ease a bit so that the USCIS can start the interview process and oath ceremonies.
The debate as to whether the presidential election is pushed back to next year is still going on. Few argue that the results will differ significantly due to the pandemic and the situation it has created.
Also, there are safety and health issues. Both Democrats and Republicans have mutually decided to postpone primaries until June in 16 states, including New York. Various rallies have also been canceled or delayed.
But when it comes to the federal elections, the postponement is highly unlikely. This is because no news or press releases have come out from Congress, Supreme Court, or any other authorities.
Also, two main candidates, Donald Trump and Joe Biden have not expressed any real intention of postponing the election. So if it does happen, you might not be able to take part in the election and cast your vote.
Read all immigration news