House Passes Measure to Repeal D.C. Noncitizen Voting Law


The House passed legislation on Thursday that would undo a District of Columbia law allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections, part of a broader bid by Republicans to amplify false claims by former President Donald J. Trump of widespread illegal voting by immigrants, a rare occurrence that is already outlawed in federal elections.

The bill has virtually no chance of being taken up in the Democratic-led Senate or making it to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law. But Republicans have used it, and other legislation aiming to crack down on voting by noncitizens, to stoke distrust in the country’s election laws and infrastructure ahead of the general election in November, a key pillar of Mr. Trump’s strategy to preemptively accuse Democrats of cheating him out of the presidency.

In the face of ample evidence to the contrary, the former president has long claimed falsely that federal elections are susceptible to widespread voter fraud and illegal voting by undocumented immigrants, who have skewed the outcomes in favor of Democrats — a charge that congressional Republicans have echoed.

The nation’s capital is one of more than a dozen municipalities in the country — most of them in California, Maryland and Vermont — that allow noncitizen residents to cast ballots in local contests, though voters eligible under the local laws rarely do so, even when they are allowed.

The vote was 262 to 143 to roll back the District’s voting law so that noncitizens would be barred from participating, with 52 Democrats and all Republicans supporting it.

On Thursday, Republicans said that the Washington, D.C. law was a gateway to a more sinister effort underway throughout the country to enfranchise people who should not be allowed to vote.

“This is a dangerous and bad precedent, and an un-American attempt at gaining power. And it needs to be stopped here and it needs to be stopped now. We have to stand up,” Representative Jeff Van Drew, Republican of New Jersey, said.

He and other Republicans said they had been admonished for warning of the possibility that noncitizens could soon gain voting rights, and held up the D.C. law as proof that the fear was legitimate.

“Here we are today. D.C., our nation’s own capitol, allowing illegal immigrants to vote in illegal elections. Yesterday’s conspiracy. Yesterday’s conspiracy is today’s reality.”

There is no evidence that noncitizens cast ballots during the 2020 presidential election, but Mr. Trump and other Republicans have again raised the possibility that it could happen this year. They have cited the surge in migrants across the United States border with Mexico to claim that the likelihood has grown, and they argue that even a minuscule number of illegal votes could swing a presidential election.

“Noncitizen voting, whether it’s one vote or a million votes, dilutes the voting power of the citizen,” Representative August Pfluger, Republican of Texas and the author of the bill, said on Thursday. “Congress must act clearly and decisively to bar noncitizens from voting in any election, including in Washington, D.C.”

Some Democrats argue that immigrants should have voting rights regardless of their status, as most of them pay taxes at levels comparable to that of U.S. citizens, contribute to their local economies and send their children to local schools.

“At the local level, everybody has the same basic interest in efficient garbage collection, excellent public schools and so on,” Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, said.

Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District’s nonvoting delegate, said that Congress should not interfere in the District’s local affairs and criticized the timing of the effort, given that primary voting is already underway for some elections in D.C.

“They did so to disrupt the elections,” she said of congressional Republicans.

Under the Constitution, Congress has authority over D.C. affairs. The House advanced two measures last year to overturn D.C. laws, including the noncitizen voting measure and another, overhauling the criminal code.

The G.O.P.-led effort partially succeeded when President Biden signed the bill to undo the changes in the criminal code. But the Democratic-led Senate refused to take up the repeal of the noncitizen voting law, allowing it to go into effect last March. It is expected to do so again this year, leaving the voting law intact.

Luke Broadwater contributed reporting.



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