Non-citizens who have resided in Washington, D.C., for at least 30 days can now vote in local city elections after the review period for a newly passed bill allowing such votes to occur ended last week, according to local media.
D.C. city officials passed the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act on its first reading last year, which Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser allowed to pass without her signature, as she refused to veto the legislation. However, acts of the city council are subject to congressional review due to the district residing in the federal territory.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill had 30 session days to object to the legislation, with the House voting to stop the bill from taking effect, WAMU reported. However, the Senate ran out of time before the review period ended.
The new law still has to secure approximately $1.6 million in funding to create the new voter registry for non-citizens, WAMU reported, adding that Congress still has options to block the measure, specifically by prohibiting D.C. officials from spending money on it taking effect.
Washington, D.C., city council member Charles Allen introduced the bill in October 2020, arguing that it aligns with the chamber’s values and history of expanding voting rights.
“Our immigrant neighbors of all statuses participate, contribute, and care about our community in our city,” Allen said at the time of the vote.
During the passing last year, the bill’s lead sponsor, Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, bragged how she “championed expanding voting rights so that those who have made the District their home have the right for their voices to be heard in our local issues, no matter their immigration status.”
The Wall Street Journal editorial board argued in a November 23 piece that the bill extends local voting rights to illegal immigrants and foreign diplomats:
It reads like a bad parody of progressive decadence. Try to imagine American diplomatic personnel showing up to cast ballots for the mayor of Beijing or Moscow. Beyond that, the standard objections to noncitizen voting apply. It weakens the incentive to naturalize. Only U.S. citizens can vote in federal races, so including noncitizens in local races would force election officials to manage two voter lists and two sets of ballots. It’s begging for a fiasco.
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The move comes after Biden administration officials have claimed they are working to make Washington, D.C., the 51st state of the Union and give the city autonomy to govern its local affairs.
House Republicans passed a resolution to block the law from taking effect with the support of 42 Democrats.
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) introduced the D.C. voting resolution and previously warned that such “misguided efforts would allow crime to run rampant and disenfranchise American citizens in our nation’s capital.”
“Voting is a pillar of American democracy and a constitutional right that undeniably needs to be protected and preserved for citizens of this country,” Comer said in a statement to Fox News. “The D.C. Council’s reckless decision to allow non-U.S. citizens and illegal immigrants the right to vote in local elections is an attack on the foundation of this republic.”
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) assailed Republicans in Congress for introducing “undemocratic” and “paternalistic” resolutions to overrule the D.C. Council.
“Instead of abusing its power over D.C. by nullifying legislation enacted by the D.C. Council, the House should adhere to democratic principles and pass my D.C. statehood bill, which would give D.C. residents voting representation in Congress and full control over their local affairs,” Norton said in prepared remarks.
During a speech, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) accused her GOP colleagues of “expanding” their support of disenfranchisement in the “overwhelmingly black city,” pointing out how Republicans already oppose D.C. statehood.
“The D.C. City Council has the right to determine its policies for D.C. residents,” she said. “And if any member of this body does not like that, they can feel free to change their registration, resign their post and run for D.C. City Council.”
In January, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced a bill to stop non-citizens from voting in local elections in Washington, D.C., saying that allowing non-citizens and illegal immigrants to exercise voting rights reserved for American citizens violates the nation’s constitutional principles, “but also naively invites foreign meddling in our elections.”
“Voting is a privilege and the tool by which American citizens exercise their say in who leads our country, how we spend our tax dollars, and what policies should be instituted,” Cruz said. “I am vehemently against unconstitutionally cheapening the votes of American citizens and ignoring the rule of law in this nation.”
Fellow GOP Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) also introduced a resolution in Congress in December to block the non-citizen voting law from taking effect, calling it an “insane policy.”