Court Keeps Washington, D.C. Noncitizen Voting Law in Place Despite Right-Wing Challenge

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a federal court dismissed a challenge to a Washington, D.C. law that allows noncitizen residents to vote in local elections. 

Last year, a right-wing legal group filed a lawsuit on behalf of voters against Washington, D.C.’s Board of Elections challenging the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2022, a law that allows noncitizen residents to vote in local elections. 

Specifically, the law allows all residents over 18 who have lived in the district for 30 days, regardless of whether they had legal permission to enter the country, to vote in local elections only. Qualified noncitizen residents can vote in district races for mayor, council, attorney general, advisory neighborhood commissioners and more, but they can not vote in federal elections.

After efforts to overturn the law stalled in the U.S. Senate, the plaintiffs in this case filed this lawsuit arguing that that the 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 alleged that the law violates the plaintiffs’ “constitutional right to citizen self-government” by “enfranchising noncitizens, and also by allowing noncitizens to hold public office.” 

The plaintiffs asked the court to block the local law, but the court declined to do so today after finding that the plaintiffs did not have standing to challenge the law. The opinion, authored by an Obama-appointed judge, concludes 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.” 

The court acknowledged that the plaintiffs may object to the law as a policy matter, but “their votes will not receive less weight or be treated differently than noncitizens’ votes; they are not losing representation in any legislative body; nor have citizens as a group been discriminatorily gerrymandered, ‘packed,’ or ‘cracked’ to divide, concentrate, or devalue their votes.” The opinion concludes: “At bottom, they are simply raising a generalized grievance which is insufficient to confer standing.” 

This is a victory for Washington, D.C. noncitizen residents who will still be able to have their voices heard in local elections. 

Read the order here.

Learn more about the case here. 

Read more about Republicans’ efforts to take power away from D.C. residents here.