Congressional Republicans Introduce Nationwide Proof of Citizenship Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced a bill this week requiring  people to provide proof of U.S. citizenship in order to register to vote in federal elections.

“As we approach the 2024 elections, the American people must have absolute certainty in the integrity of our election system,” Johnson said in a statement. “This bill would fortify federal elections by ensuring that only American citizens vote in American elections.”

U.S. Capitol Building (PartTime Portraits/Unsplash).

Johnson first announced that Congressional Republicans were working on a federal voter suppression bill targeting noncitizens from voting last month alongside former President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

In a press conference on Wednesday outside the Capitol, Johnson — flanked by other GOP members of Congress, former Trump advisor Stephen Miller, former Trump campaign attorney Cleta Mitchell and other GOP figures from various right-wing groups — formally introduced the bill. 

The 22-page bill, titled the Safeguard American Voter Eligibility (SAVE) Act, amends the National Voter Registration Act to require proof of citizenship to register to vote. 

Anyone registering to vote in federal elections would need to provide an approved form of photo ID — including a U.S. passport, military ID, birth certificate, naturalization certificate or a government-issued photo ID card showing that the applicant’s place of birth was in the United States.

The bill also outlines that if someone registers to vote using the National Mail Voter Registration Form, they would have to go to an election official’s office to show proof of citizenship by a certain deadline. Alternatively, they can show proof of citizenship to an election official on the day they’re voting, whether that’s during an early voting period or on election day. 

The legislation also requires states to  remove noncitizen voters from their rolls, and if someone is unlawfully registered to vote, the Secretary of Homeland Security can determine whether to initiate removal proceedings.

Roy introduced the SAVE Act — introduced as H.R. 8281 — on Tuesday in the U.S. House of Representatives, along with 46 GOP co-sponsors, including House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

“I am proud to introduce the SAVE Act with Speaker Johnson and my Republican colleagues, along with the invaluable support of citizens and organizations that recognize we must end the practice of non-citizens voting in our elections,” Roy said in the Wednesday release.

On Wednesday, Lee introduced a companion bill, S.4292, in the Senate with seven co-sponsors including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rick Scott (Fla.).

While noncitizens are already prohibited from voting in federal elections, municipalities in California, Maryland and Vermont, along with Washington, D.C., allow noncitizen residents to vote in local contests and support their right to do so.

The Movement Advancement Project, an independent, nonprofit think tank, released a report in 2022 detailing the barriers caused by citizens who do not have a  photo ID or documents to prove citizenship, especially those in minority groups. According to the report, nearly 30 million people — or one in eight adults —  lack a valid driver’s license. Black, Hispanic and transgender individuals are more likely to not have one. 

The report also estimates that 15 to 18 million adults in the U.S. don’t have access to documents proving their birth or citizenship because of a variety of factors, including complicated documentation requirements, expensive fees, limited availability of ID services, confusing state policies and discrimination.

Multiple states already have laws requiring voters to present photo IDs, including North Carolina, whose law is currently being challenged in court.

Read H.R. 8281 here.

Track the status of the bill here.