Most House Democrats endorse voting rights for noncitizens

U.S. House Democrats have shown overwhelming support for allowing noncitizens to vote in U.S. elections.

The House took action on Thursday, voting on a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas. The purpose of the bill is to prevent noncitizens from participating in District of Columbia local elections.

The bill aims to revoke a law passed in 2022 in the District of Columbia, which granted noncitizens the right to vote in local elections. Additionally, it seeks to enforce a strict prohibition on noncitizens participating in any elections held within the district.

The bill was approved with a vote of 262-143, garnering support from 52 Democrats who joined 210 Republicans.

143 Democrats voted against the bill, while 18 Democrats and 7 Republicans did not cast their votes.

In January 2023, Pfluger introduced a bill in response to the Washington D.C. City Council’s decision in October 2022. The council’s near-unanimous vote approved the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2022, which would grant noncitizens the right to vote in local elections starting in 2024. The bill, signed into law by Mayor Muriel Bowser, now awaits congressional review. Under the new law, green-card holders and individuals who entered or reside in the U.S. illegally can participate in local elections if they are at least 18 years old and have resided in the district for a minimum of 30 days.

According to The Center Square, the mayor took action by declaring a state of emergency due to the influx of illegal foreign nationals into the city. He specifically pointed fingers at the governors of Texas and Arizona for the crisis.

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According to an estimate by the Migration Policy Institute, there were approximately 51,000 noncitizens residing in D.C. when the law was enacted. As of July 1, 2023, the district’s population, based on U.S. Census data, stood at nearly 680,000.

In an effort to block the law, seven D.C. residents and U.S. citizens filed a lawsuit. However, District Judge Amy Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed their case in March of this year. She ruled that the residents lacked standing and granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Congress voted on Pfluger’s bill two months after her ruling.

In a floor statement preceding the vote, Pfluger criticized the D.C. City Council’s decision, referring to it as short-sighted. He expressed concern over the inclusion of noncitizens, including illegal aliens and foreign agents, in local D.C. elections. Furthermore, Pfluger highlighted the fact that officials were actively encouraging non-citizens to vote by distributing flyers throughout the district. These flyers urged non-citizens to cast their votes for the mayor, members of the State Board of Education, and other positions.

Pfluger argues against allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections by emphasizing their significance. He states that these elections play a crucial role in determining taxation, the criminal code, and the selection of city council members who make important decisions, such as deciding who gets the right to vote.

The speaker expressed disbelief at the idea that any city council, including the D.C. City Council, would purposefully diminish the voting influence of their constituents, especially those from underserved communities. This would be done in favor of noncitizens who do not meet residency requirements, do not pay taxes, and may have entered the country illegally. The speaker also raised concerns about the possibility of these noncitizens being employed by a foreign adversary.

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“D.C. should be at the forefront of ensuring safe and secure elections, being the capital of our democracy. It should not be promoting practices that our adversaries would take pleasure in.”

After another Texas Republican filed a separate election-related bill, the House proceeded to pass this bill.

Earlier in February, U.S. Representative Chip Roy from Texas introduced the Safeguard American Voter Eligibility (SAVE) Act, along with several cosponsors. They raised concerns about the border crisis and the record-breaking influx of foreign nationals entering the country illegally. The supporters of the legislation expressed their alarm that instead of being deported, many of these individuals are being registered to vote. The Center Square reported on this issue.

District of Columbia City Councilwoman Brianne Nadeau, a Democrat who has been advocating for the expansion of voting rights for noncitizens for almost a decade, believes that noncitizens should have the opportunity to vote. According to Nadeau, individuals who have established their homes in the District should have the right to express their opinions on local matters, regardless of their immigration status.

Last month, the D.C. Board of Elections conducted a training session aimed at providing noncitizens with information on the voting process.

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