Congressional Republicans Introduce Bill to Ban Noncitizen Voting in D.C. Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. House and Senate Republicans introduced legislation earlier this month to overturn a Washington, D.C. law that allows noncitizens to vote in local elections.

Rep. William Timmons (R-S.C.) introduced the Demanding Citizenship in D.C. Elections Act earlier this month, which would require people voting in Washington, D.C. municipal elections to be U.S. citizens and provide proof of citizenship.

Washington, D.C. flag. (Mr.TinMD/Flickr)

“Only U.S. citizens should be able to vote. Period. Any attempts by liberal cities and states to allow those who broke our laws and entered our country illegally to vote must be stopped,” Timmons said in a statement about the bill.

Sens. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) introduced a companion bill in the Senate on the same day.

The legislation was introduced after a federal court dismissed a challenge in March from a right-wing legal group to the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment of 2022 that allows noncitizens to vote in Washington, D.C. elections.

The law allows all residents over age 18 who have lived in the district for 30 days to vote in local elections, regardless of whether they had legal permission to enter the country. They can vote in district races for mayor, council, attorney general and more, but they cannot participate in federal elections.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said in its opinion that the “plaintiffs have not alleged that they have personally been subjected to any sort of disadvantage as individual voters by virtue of the fact that noncitizens are permitted to vote, too.”

Instead, the court held that “they may object as a matter of policy to the fact that immigrants get to vote at all, but their votes will not receive less weight or be treated differently than noncitizens’ votes.”

On April 11, the plaintiffs appealed this case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

In its motion to dismiss the case in June of 2023, the D.C. Board of Elections provided context as to why the district passed this law in the first place.

“The Council found that ‘[n]on-citizen residents are neighbors, friends, colleagues, classmates, business owners, and District taxpayers, and they are impacted by local laws just as much as citizen residents are,’” the motion said. “Accordingly, the Council concluded that ‘[n]on-citizens, like citizens, deserve the opportunity to have a voice in the issues that affect them and to participate in electing the representatives who make decisions on their behalf.’”

Along with Washington, D.C., municipalities in California, Maryland and Vermont also allow noncitizen residents to vote in local contests.

New York City passed a law in 2021 allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections, but a group of Republican voters, local and federal officials, the Republican National Committee (RNC) and others challenged the law in court.

The state court struck down the legislation in June of 2022, and the case was appealed to a New York appellate court, which agreed with the trial court’s decision. In March, the defendants appealed that decision to the state’s highest court.

Then, in August of 2022, the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) filed a lawsuit challenging the same law, and the litigation is ongoing in the trial court.

In a statement released last week, Marshall and Scott expressed their staunch opposition to people voting who did not enter the U.S. legally.

Both senators said that President Joe Biden has created a major crisis at the southern border and accused Democrats of unabashedly trying to get “illegal aliens” to vote in elections to garner more votes for their party.

“This is election interference by design, with the ultimate goal being the unraveling of our free and fair elections by engineering the largest-scale invasion of our country and turning them out at the ballot box to perpetually ‘cook the books’ for Democrats,” Marshall said.

In the same vein, a couple of weeks ago, U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced a bill requiring people across the country to provide proof of U.S. citizenship in order to register to vote in federal elections.

However, in a congressional hearing last week, Brennan Center for Justice President and CEO Michael Waldman expressed his criticism of the bill, saying that the claim about large numbers of noncitizens voting in federal contests and heavily influencing elections is an “urban myth” and “conspiracy theory.”

The Demanding Citizenship in D.C. Elections Act is not the first attempt by Republicans to overturn the District’s 2022 amendment through legislation. Although the district has its own local government, Congress has ultimate authority over its laws and budget, as established in Article I of the U.S. Constitution.

In February of 2023, the GOP in the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution disapproving of the amendment, but it stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The GOP’s new bills are likely to see the same fate as the previous legislation with Democrats currently having control of the Senate and the White House.

Read the bill here.

Track the status of the House bill here.

Track the status of the Senate bill here.