U.S. House GOP targets noncitizen voting, even though it’s rare

US Capitol

by Ariana Figueroa, Georgia Recorder [This article first appeared in the Georgia Recorder, republished with permission]

May 8, 2024

WASHINGTON — U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson Wednesday unveiled a bill that would require states to verify proof of citizenship to prevent noncitizens from voting in federal elections, something already barred under the law.

Johnson, a Louisiana Republican who played a key role through legal challenges in defending the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, said at a press conference that voting by noncitizens is “a clear and present danger to the integrity of our election system.”

Outside the U.S. Capitol, Johnson was joined by former Trump aides Stephen Miller and Ken Cuccinelli, Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin and Cleta Mitchell, a key figure who tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election and is now running a grassroots organization to aggressively monitor elections in November.

The bill would amend the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to require proof of citizenship to vote in federal elections, according to bill text provided by the office of the sponsor, Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas.

“Under any method of voter registration in a State, the State shall not accept and process an application to register to vote in an election for Federal office unless the applicant presents documentary proof of United States citizenship with the application,” according to the bill text.

It would also allow states to check citizenship through federal databases with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. The bill bars DHS from charging a fee to the state for complying with a request to verify citizenship.

Proof of citizenship would also be required for mail-in voting and registration agencies would also have to verify proof of citizenship while registering someone to vote.

The bill would also allow states to remove noncitizen voters from voter rolls.

Johnson meeting with Trump

The press conference came after Johnson met with former president Donald J. Trump last month, and Johnson announced plans to take up legislation related to noncitizens voting in federal elections.

The April event doubled as support from the former president, as Johnson was facing increasing pressure from hard-right members threatening to oust him from his role.

The threat to oust Johnson as speaker is ongoing from Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Rome, Georgia.

Johnson on Wednesday did not give details on when he would schedule the bill for a vote on the House floor.

Utah’s GOP Sen. Mike Lee will introduce the companion bill in the Senate.

“When federal law has been interpreted as precluding, in many ways, the voter registration officials in the various states from even inquiring into someone’s citizenship when addressing voter roll issues, we have a problem,” Lee said.

With Democrats controlling a slim majority in the Senate, the measure is unlikely to be brought up for a floor vote.

Researchers and studies have disproved that noncitizens vote in federal elections. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, conducted an analysis of election conduct from 2003 to 2023 and found 29 instances of noncitizens voting.

A few cities and towns allow noncitizens to vote in local elections, a move that has spurred a GOP backlash and sparked a conservative national rallying cry about noncitizens voting.

Since 2020, five states — Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Ohio, and Louisiana — have amended their constitutions to make it clear that only citizens can vote in elections at any level.

Trump has made his reelection campaign center on immigration, and the former president and Republicans are pushing the false narrative of noncitizens often voting in federal elections.

The executive director of a policy think tank, Sam Oliker-Friedland of the Institute for Responsive Government Action, said in a statement that the bill does not improve election security.

“It’s nothing more than a messaging bill designed to stoke fear and undermine confidence in our democracy,” Oliker-Friedland said. “There is no evidence to support the claim that there are waves of non-citizens voting.”

The top Democrat on the Committee on House Administration, Joseph Morelle of New York, slammed the bill for trying to solve a “non-existent problem.”

“Non-citizen voting in federal elections is already a federal crime,” Morelle said in a statement. “States already have several systems in place to deter non-citizen voting and people who violate the law face prison time and deportation.”

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