WASHINGTON, D.C. — Earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Katie Britt (R-Ala.) introduced legislation aimed at preventing noncitizen voting in federal elections, despite the fact that the practice is already illegal and nearly nonexistent.
The bill would amend the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and require that individuals provide proof of U.S. citizenship when registering to vote on a mail-in ballot application — though the legislation does not spell out how citizenship would be proven. A similar bill was introduced by U.S. Rep Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) earlier this year.
Numerous Republican senators are co-sponsoring the bill, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Deb Fischer (Neb.).
Noncitizen voting has been a frequent area of attack for Republicans for years. Former President Donald Trump infamously and falsely claimed millions of noncitizens voted in the 2016 elections, and earlier this year House Republicans introduced a sweeping voter suppression bill that redundantly made it illegal for noncitizens to vote in federal elections.
Research has shown that noncitizens illegally voting is essentially a nonissue. A New York Times investigation found just two possible instances of noncitizens illegally voting in the 2016 election out of more than 137 million ballots cast.
Though noncitizen voting is outlawed in federal elections, states and localities can legislate the issue as they see fit. A handful of municipalities currently allow noncitizen voting in local elections. A Washington, D.C. law allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections went into effect in February of this year, just weeks after the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution to overturn it, though that effort failed in the Democrat-led Senate.
Last year, Arizona passed legislation that requires new voters registering with federal forms to provide proof of citizenship. Multiple lawsuits were filed challenging the bill, alleging that it violated the 1st and 14th Amendments, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act. Eventually consolidated into one lawsuit, the challenge is ongoing.