Top Dem backs local control for noncitizen voting while party pushes federalized elections

Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar's comments come as Democrats seek to impose sweeping new federal voting rules on localities and states, such as banning photo ID verification.

Published: January 13, 2022 11:10am

Updated: January 13, 2022 11:58pm

California Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar, vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus and member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said localities have the "authority" to allow non-citizens to vote in certain elections.

Aguilar's comments come as Democrats move to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, which includes federal rules that localities and states would have to follow such as not requiring a photo ID or Social Security number to cast a ballot.

Aguilar was asked how he and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus view the New York City government allowing about 800,000 non-citizens to vote in local elections. The Republican National Committee is challenging the move. 

"Elections are administered by local officials, and local officials also have decision-making authority on allowing individuals, any individual to vote in local elections," Aguilar said during a conference call to announce support for the Senate Democratic leadership's effort to change filibuster rules to allow passage of the party's election overhaul legislation. "And so what you're talking about is a proposal to allow parents to vote in local school board races and local city council races. That's a local decision. 

"I think my colleagues and I all absolutely understand and respect the right and the sanctity of voting. What we're talking here about is about Republican efforts to disenfranchise, to stop early voting, to limit access to the polls." 

Democrats are also pushing for the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act which would require states to receive approval from the federal government before changing election law if voting rights "violations occurred" over specific timeframes specified in the bill. 

The legislation "establishes new criteria for determining which states and political subdivisions must obtain preclearance before changes to voting practices" are able to take effect. 

A state and all of its political subdivisions that meet the criteria "shall be subject to preclearance of voting practice changes for a 10-year period," according to an official summary of the bill.

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