Ohio lawmakers move to close loophole, block non-citizens from voting

Joint resolution introduced in both the House and Senate calls for a vote on a constitutional amendment.

Updated: May 18, 2022 - 11:48pm

Ohio lawmakers want to close what they call a loophole in state election law that could allow noncitizens to vote but they need voters to do it.

A joint resolution was introduced in both the House and Senate that calls for a vote on a constitutional amendment in November that would prohibit local governments from allowing non-U.S. citizens to vote in local elections.

“Most people would be surprised to learn that this situation even exists,” said Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville. “Our proposal is very straight forward and makes clear that only a citizen may vote. I think it will draw strong support from Democrats, Republicans, and independents.”

Municipalities and chartered counties in the state have home rule, which supporters say could open the door for noncitizen voting.

Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township, said New York City and San Francisco have proposed the idea of noncitizen voting in those communities.

“These fringe ideas from the east and west coasts have a way of filtering into the heartland, so we are proactively seeking to curtail those novelties from ever gaining a foothold in the Buckeye State,” Seitz said.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose, in a news release, said the village of Yellow Springs tried to allow noncitizens to vote in a local election in 2020. At the time, LaRose directed the Greene County Board of Elections to reject noncitizen voter registration and put measurers in place to make sure only citizens could vote.

“American elections are only for American citizens, and the cities in other states that have granted noncitizens the right to vote in local elections are undermining the value of what it means to be an American,” LaRose said. “I fully support the General Assembly’s efforts to enshrine this fundamentally American democratic right in the Ohio Constitution, and I look forward to working with legislative leaders to allow Ohio voters the opportunity to affirm that the functioning order of our government across our state will be determined only by U.S. citizens.”

The resolution must be passed by three-fifths of both the House and Senate to appear on the November general election ballot.

House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, called the resolution a way to prevent something from happening in the future.

“I think it’s a preventative measure. I don’t think anyone believes noncitizens should vote in Ohio,” Cupp said.

The resolution would not impact federal elections. In 1996, Congress passed a law making it a crime for a noncitizen to vote in a federal election.