Immigration & Naturalization Law

New Immigrant Voting Rights FAQ

Voting rights for new immigrants can be confusing. In this section, you will find common questions and answers.

Click on a question below to see its respective answer about your right to vote, or continue scrolling to read the full page.

Common Voting Rights Questions

Is There a Law That Protects Me Against Discrimination When Voting?

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 protects everyone who participates in elections from racial discrimination. It also provides important protection to voters who have limited English proficiency.

What Are the Laws Within My Right to Vote?

The Voting Rights Act is a federal law that prohibits all forms of racial discrimination at the polls.

In the past, many states had laws that prevented minority citizens from voting. These states imposed practices such as requiring people to pass a reading test to vote.

Does the Voting Rights Act Protect Minorities Who Speak Other Languages?

Voting rights law makes it illegal to discriminate against voters based on belonging to a minority group based on language.

The purpose of the law is to:

  • Remove language as a barrier to political participation
  • Avoid discrimination against people who speak different languages other than English

The Voting Rights Act protects members of minority groups in matters of language by:

  • Requiring jurisdictions to print ballots and other electoral materials in minority languages as well as English
  • Providing translators or interpreters at the voting booth where this need exists

Jurisdictions and election officials are supposed to take "all reasonable steps" to train those voters "to be informed and effectively participate in activities connected with voting."

What Type of Racial Discrimination Does the Voting Rights Act of 1965 Prohibit?

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits state or local governments from excluding minorities from voting directly. It also outlaws certain voting procedures that give people fewer opportunities to vote.

An example of a practice that prohibits discrimination is developing district voting lines to divide minority communities and/or prevent them from having a concentrated impact on electoral results.

What Federal Law Protects Me From Voting Discrimination?

Under the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, all U.S. citizens are protected from racial discrimination in voting.

This law also protects the voting rights of many people who have limited English proficiency. Furthermore, it upholds the principle that voting is equal for everyone and that neither race nor language should prevent voting.

How Do I File a Complaint About Voting Discrimination?

You may file a complaint about voting discrimination with the U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Civil Rights, Elections Section, by calling 1-800-253-3931, or by sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice at the address listed on the website.

Who Enforces the Voting Rights Act of 1965?

The U.S. Department of Justice can sue in federal court to enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965 if the practices of a particular jurisdiction are found to be racially discriminatory.

How Does the U.S. Department of Justice Investigate Voting Discrimination Complaints?

The federal government uses federal observers. These people are employees who observe elections and vote counting procedures to ensure that discrimination does not occur.

Federal observers prepare reports on their observations, which can later be used as evidence in voting discrimination claims.

How Can I Change My Address on My Voter Registration Record?

If you have moved within your state, changed your name, or want to update your political party affiliation, you must update your voter registration by submitting your new information before your state's registration deadline. This could be up to 30 days before the election.

If you have permanently moved to another state, you must register to vote there.

What Are the Deadlines for Requesting an Absentee Ballot?

If you request an absentee ballot, you must typically do so no less than one day before the date of the election.

If you request a ballot by mail within the U.S., you must make sure to request one by your state's deadline.

If you request a mail-in ballot outside of the U.S., you may receive it if you request it at least 30 days before the election. A federal ballot will arrive in time if you request it at least 10 days before the election.

Can I Vote by Mail if I Am in the Military?

You may vote by mail in local, state, and federal elections if you are:

  • A U.S. citizen
  • Over the age of 18
  • An active member of the Armed Forces, Merchant Marine, Public Health Service, NOAA
  • A relative of the above active member
  • A U.S. citizen residing outside of the United States

Does the U.S. Department of Justice Have Any Other Federal Election Legislation?

Yes. The U.S. Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing federal voting laws other than the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

For example, the Department of Justice enforces the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. This act requires states to make registration services available at different government agencies, such as public assistance offices and departments of motor vehicles (DMVs).

The Justice Department is also responsible for the enforcement of the Uniform Overseas Citizens Voting Act of 1986. This act protects the voting rights of military members and other U.S. citizens living abroad.

There is also the Elderly and Disabled Voting Accessibility Act of 1984, which requires voting centers to be accessible to all voters.

I Think Voting Fraud Has Occurred. What Can I Do?

Although most electoral administration is regulated by state law, there are many circumstances in which the federal government may be involved.

You can report potential voting fraud to: