House passes bill to ban noncitizens from voting in local DC elections

House passes bill to ban noncitizens from voting in local DC elections

The House approved a bill Thursday that seeks to ban non-U.S. citizens from voting in local Washington elections, once again taking aim at the capital city through legislation.

The four-page measure, which passed 262-143, would forbid any noncitizens from voting in elections for municipal office or on ballot initiatives and referendums. Federal law prohibits noncitizens from voting in any federal-level election.

The D.C. Council approved a measure in 2022 that added eligible noncitizen residents to the definition of a qualified elector for local elections. Seven D.C. voters filed a lawsuit against the city’s Board of Elections, but a federal court upheld the law in March, dismissing the suit after a judge determined the plaintiffs could not prove they were harmed by the policy.

Republicans this week hammered away at the local law, arguing that noncitizens should not be allowed to weigh in on leadership in the nation’s capital.

“The city council has decided they want noncitizens and foreign actors deciding who will serve as mayor and the local, attorney general here. As the body in charge of overseeing DC, Congress will not support such lawless behavior,” Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said during a press conference Wednesday.

Democrats, led by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), have blasted the GOP-led bill, calling it “undemocratic” and “paternalistic.”

“D.C. residents, a majority of whom are Black and brown, are worthy and capable of self-government,” Norton added in remarks on the House floor. “I urge members to vote no.”

The now-defunct outlet DCist reported earlier this year that only 32 noncitizens had registered to vote in D.C. local elections.

Republicans and some Democrats previously expressed their disapproval of the D.C. council law in February — 42 Democrats joined all Republicans in supporting a resolution slamming the local statute.

And the effort to strike down the D.C. bill follows another GOP piece of legislation to bar noncitizens from voting in federal elections — despite law already on the books prohibiting that in federal elections.

Just 16 cities and towns allow noncitizens to vote in local elections, while at least six states have enacted bans that limit localities from allowing them to vote.

Reporting indicates even when cities allow noncitizens to vote in local elections, such votes represent a fraction of the totals.

Just 86 noncitizens voted in local elections in March in Vermont, while 31 voted in a 2020 election in San Francisco, according to reporting from Stateline.

In Takoma Park, Md., which has allowed noncitizen voting for more than 30 years, the latest figures show about 20 percent of the 347 noncitizens who have registered to vote in recent elections have cast ballots.

But the constitution leaves it to the states to set the time, place, and manner of elections – making all laws but D.C. beyond the reach of Congressional review. The 50-year-old Home Rule Act gives Congress the power to object to D.C. laws.

The passage of the bill is the latest Republican rejection of D.C. legislation.

Last year Congress blocked a police accountability law passed by the D.C. counsel, sparking a veto from President Biden who said it included important police reforms.

Before that, Biden signed a resolution to overturn D.C.’s crime bill, after initially saying he was opposed to the measure.

Updated at 3:38 p.m.

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