WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, March 14, a right-wing legal group filed a lawsuit on behalf of Washington, D.C. voters (including two Republican candidates and well-known conservative activists) challenging the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2022, a law that allows noncitizen residents of Washington, D.C. to vote in local elections. The plaintiffs allege that this law “dilutes the vote of every U.S. citizen voter in the District,” “infringes on Plaintiffs’ fundamental right to vote” and “unlawfully discriminates against U.S. citizens living in D.C.” in violation of the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The plaintiffs also allege that the law violates the plaintiffs’ “constitutional right to citizen self-government” by “enfranchising noncitizens, and also by allowing noncitizens to hold public office.”
On Feb. 9, the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass a resolution to overturn the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act. The House was able to vote on the bill as a result of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, which granted Congress the power to review all legislation passed by the council. Despite the House voting to overturn the bill, it became law on Feb. 23. The lawsuit filed on March 14 asks the state court to block the law and prohibit noncitizens from voting in local elections in the district.
This lawsuit is part of a growing movement led by Republicans to attack progressive-leaning cities by making noncitizen voting laws a national lightning rod for anti-immigration sentiment and falsehoods about who can vote in federal elections. Laws that expand voting rights to certain noncitizens are often inaccurately characterized by opponents, either in defining which noncitizens can vote or in what type of elections. While only U.S. citizens can vote in federal elections, a handful of cities and towns have proactively allowed permanent, noncitizen residents to vote in local elections. Notably, New York City passed such a law last year, which is currently facing Republican-led litigation. In early January 2023, the Vermont Supreme Court upheld a statute allowing noncitizen legal residents in Montpelier, Vermont, to vote in the small capital city’s local elections. On March 9, the Republican National Committee, the Vermont Republican Party and Vermont voters filed a similar lawsuit challenging a statute that authorizes noncitizens in Winooski, Vermont, to vote on referendums involving the city’s school board and education budget as well as in municipal elections.