House Panel Debates Voting By Noncitizens, Which Is Already Illegal

by Ariana Figueroa, Nebraska Examiner

Republicans on the U.S. House Administration Committee argued at a Thursday hearing that there is a need for legislative action to bar noncitizens from voting in federal elections — even though voting by noncitizens in federal elections is extremely rare and already illegal.

“American elections are for American citizens and we intend to keep it that way,” the chair of the committee, Rep. Bryan Steil of Wisconsin, said in his opening remarks.

House Democrats said Republicans were laying the groundwork to instill mistrust in voting ahead of the November elections, drawing parallels to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol when then-President Donald Trump encouraged supporters to block certification of the 2020 presidential election results.

“MAGA extremists are laying the groundwork to overturn the 2024 presidential election,” the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Joe Morelle of New York, said in his opening remarks, using an acronym that is shorthand for Trump supporters.

Responding to local rules

Noncitizens are barred from voting in federal elections, but they can vote in local elections if a local law is passed allowing them to do so. Certain municipalities in California, Maryland and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia, allow noncitizens to participate in local elections.

As the November elections approach, Republicans have taken aim at noncitizen voting and have made immigration policy a campaign issue. Trump, who is the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, has also made the issue a central campaign theme.

House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana helped unveil legislation last week to bar noncitizens from voting in federal elections, something that is already illegal.

Steil said that if a municipality allows noncitizens to vote it “reduces confidence in our elections.” He specifically called out Washington, D.C., for allowing noncitizens to partake in its elections.

“Washington, D.C., is setting a new standard that could soon be applied across the country,” Steil said.

“This causes a host of problems for a state to maintain (a) clean voter registration list,” Steil argued.

Researchers and studies have often disproved that noncitizens widely cast ballots 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.

GOP members promote House bill

Republicans on the committee advocated for the election-related bill, H.R. 8281, which Johnson promoted on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. The bill, sponsored by Texas GOP Rep. Chip Roy, would require states to verify proof of citizenship to prevent noncitizens from voting in federal elections, which is already a felony.

Oklahoma GOP Rep. Stephanie Bice argued that jurisdictions that allow noncitizens to vote should have a separate voter roll. She asked one of the witnesses, Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, if there should be a federal law to require states to separate voter rolls. Von Spakovsky agreed with the idea.

Bice said that the biggest issue she has with localities allowing noncitizens to vote is that “the voter rolls are not being cleaned up.”

The Roy bill would require states to remove voters from rolls who do not prove their citizenship.

Georgia GOP Rep. Barry Loudermilk argued that Americans care about elections. When noncitizens are allowed to vote, “we undermine and undercut the value of each and every vote,” he said.

Bill would burden voters, Dems say

Washington state Democratic Rep. Derek Kilmer said that bill would impact eligible voters, including members of the 12 tribes in his district. He said when tribal members vote, they use tribal enrollment cards, which “don’t necessarily contain information about citizenship.”

Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell of Alabama said the legislation would also make it harder for eligible voters — especially voters of color — to cast their ballots. She asked the witness tapped by Democrats, Michael Waldman, the president and CEO of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, about Republican claims of “widespread voter fraud” when it comes to noncitizens voting.

“Overwhelmingly, our (election) system is secure,” Waldman said.

Waldman said that it’s “an urban myth,” that a high number of noncitizens vote in federal elections and warned that “this year, the big lie is being pre-deployed.”

He said that those who tried to overturn the 2020 presidential elections are now more organized and trying to “set the stage for challenging the legitimacy of elections.”

He added the rhetoric about many noncitizens voting was also used in 2020 by Trump ally Rudy Giuliani, who lost his D.C. and New York law license over false claims that tens of thousands of noncitizens in Arizona voted in the presidential election.

“Lies, I should note, that were repeated by President Trump on the Ellipse as he sent the crowd up to the Capitol,” Waldman said. “This was not the central argument then, but it is now.”

Nebraska Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nebraska Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Cate Folsom for questions: Follow Nebraska Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

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