WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, Jan. 12, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) announced legislation to overturn a Washington, D.C. Council law to allow noncitizen legal residents to vote in local elections. The Republicans’ joint resolution would overturn the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2022, a law enacted by the council in October 2022. Under the District of Columbia’s Home Rule Act, Congress reviews all legislation passed by the council. Cotton and Comer’s joint resolution, if passed by the House and Senate and signed by President Joe Biden, would prevent the council’s act from going into effect. Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas) introduced similar legislation this week.
“Allowing illegal immigrants to vote is an insult to every voter in America. Every single Democrat should be on the record about whether they support this insane policy,” Cotton wrote in a press release. His statement is factually incorrect: The Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act will allow legal permanent residents, such as green card holders, to vote in local elections only. Qualified noncitizen residents could vote in races for mayor, council, attorney general, advisory neighborhood commissioners and more.
While only U.S. citizens can vote in federal elections, some cities or towns have proactively allowed permanent, noncitizen residents to vote in local elections. Notably, last year New York City passed such a law, which is currently in litigation. 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. Anti-immigrant sentiment fuels many of the conversations around these laws; in reaction to New York City’s move, Louisiana and Ohio approved constitutional amendments in the 2022 midterm elections to prevent noncitizen voting. In contrast, proponents argue that noncitizen legal residents should have a say in local policy decisions given that they pay taxes, work, own homes and send children to schools.
Cotton is also a strong opponent of statehood for the District of Columbia, calling Wyoming — a state with a smaller population than the district — a “well-rounded working-class state” whose residents are much more deserving of statehood than residents of the nation’s capital.