Why Republicans are Concentrating on Noncitizens’ Voting: An Explanation



House Republicans are pushing for legislation targeting noncitizen voting, including a bill to overturn a Washington, D.C. law allowing noncitizen residents to vote in local elections. They’re also aiming to require states to obtain proof of citizenship when registering voters. While it is unlikely these bills will pass, the move is seen as an attempt to fuel false claims of widespread illegal voting by noncitizens, despite studies showing it is extremely rare for noncitizens to vote in federal elections.

House Republicans Strive to Limit Voting by Noncitizens

As part of an effort to sow doubts about election integrity, House Republicans are pushing legislation to restrict voting by noncitizens. They aim to reverse a law allowing noncitizen residents of Washington, D.C., to vote in local elections and require states to obtain proof of citizenship during voter registration and purge noncitizens from voter rolls. The bills are unlikely to pass a Democratic-led Senate and President Biden’s signature but serve to highlight Republicans’ persistent false claims of widespread unlawful voting by noncitizens.

The Reality of Noncitizen Voting

Despite false claims that foreign nationals swing close elections in one party’s favor, the reality is different. Over a dozen cities and towns across the country permit noncitizens to vote in local elections. This policy debate revolves around whether voting rights should be extended at the municipal level to foreign nationals who contribute to local economies and send their children to local schools. However, noncitizens rarely cast ballots in local elections even when permitted. For example, in Washington, D.C., where around 15 percent of the 700,000 residents are foreign-born, only about 500 noncitizens had registered to vote as of the latest data.

Illegal and Rare: Noncitizens Voting in Federal Elections

It’s against the law and notably infrequent for noncitizens to vote in federal elections. A study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University found just 30 potential cases of noncitizen voting out of 23.5 million votes cast in the 2016 presidential election. Similarly, a 2022 audit by Georgia found fewer than 1,700 instances of noncitizens trying to register to vote in the last 25 years, all unsuccessful. David Becker, director for the Center for Election Innovation and Research, affirmed this, noting the effectiveness of states at ensuring only U.S. citizens remain on voter rolls for federal elections.

Why Noncitizens Avoid Voting in Federal Elections

Registering to vote invites heightened scrutiny from state officials and law enforcement, something immigrants with unsettled legal status are keen to avoid. Infringements could lead to deportation, providing strong disincentives for noncitizens to attempt to vote. Despite this, Republicans and election deniers continue to cite inaccurate figures suggesting widespread illegal voting by noncitizens.

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