Top Georgia official calls for state constitutional amendment to ban non-citizen voting

State law already specifies 'every person who is a citizen of the United States and a resident of Georgia' but secretary of state says constitutional change will prevent those laws from ever being changed.

Updated: August 11, 2021 - 4:34pm

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Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger called Wednesday for the Georgia Legislature to amend the state constitution to declare only U.S. citizens can vote in the state, seeking to combat a trend in some localities in other states.

State law already specifies "every person who is a citizen of the United States and a resident of Georgia as defined by law … shall be entitled to vote." Raffensperger said adding new language to the state constitution would ensure the policy remains in place.

"We want to be very clear about that so that people don't believe that they can register," Raffensperger told a news briefing. "The confusion arises when you can vote in other states, and we want to make sure people understand in Georgia, only American citizens vote. It is reserved for American citizens only."

Noncitizen voting in federal elections is illegal across the nation, but some cities are allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Municipalities in Vermont, California, Maryland and Massachusetts have passed laws allowing non-citizens to vote. Lawmakers in Illinois, the District of Columbia and New York City also are considering similar rules.

Raffensperger said Georgia experienced isolated incidents of noncitizen voters registering in previous elections, which his office referred to the attorney general for prosecution. Adding clear language to the constitution would close legal loopholes and help the state avoid future lawsuits, he said.

Georgia is facing eight lawsuits over its most-recent election reform law, Senate Bill 202.

If lawmakers go forward with Raffensperger's proposal, they will have to put the constitutional amendment an election ballot for voter approval.

"Let's put it in the constitution so that we can make sure that only American citizens vote in Georgia, forever," Raffensperger said. "If you support state law, then you should support a constitutional amendment."