Democrats draw backlash, suspicion over opposition to Hill Republicans' citizen-only voting bill

House Speaker Mike Johnson said that Democrats oppose the bill because “They want to turn illegal aliens into voters.”

Published: July 8, 2024 11:07pm

Updated: July 8, 2024 11:08pm

Democrats' opposition to the passage of GOP-led congressional legislation that would require proof of citizenship to vote in federal elections is drawing backlash and suspicion.

"Why are Democrats so adamantly against ensuring only American citizens vote in our elections?" GOP House Speaker Mike Johnson asked Monday on X above a repost of a Fox News story on such opposition.

Republicans have introduced a bill in the House and Senate that would ensure only U.S. citizens vote in federal elections, amid Democrat opposition claiming it is unnecessary, which has resulting in the bill’s supporters speculating that Democrats want illegal immigrants to vote in U.S. elections.

In May, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, introduced the Safeguard American Voter Eligibility (SAVE) Act, which would amend the 1993 National Voter Registration Act to make states require documentation of a person's citizenship before registering to vote in federal elections and require states to remove non-citizens from their voter rolls.

While non-citizens are prohibited from voting in federal, state, and most local elections, California, Maryland, Vermont and Washington, D.C., allow non-citizens to vote in local elections.

“Illegal immigrants and non-citizens across the nation are being improperly registered to vote, allowing them to cast illegitimate ballots in federal elections," Lee said in introducing the bill.

"At a time when trust in voting is more important than ever, we must stop foreign election interference and pass the SAVE Act. Voting is both a sacred right and responsibility of American citizenship, and allowing the people of other nations access to our elections is a grave blow to our security and self-governance.”

The Committee on House Administration passed the SAVE Act in late May.

Following the discharge of the bill by the Rules Committee on Monday and the House voting on the rule Tuesday, final passage of the measure in the GOP-controlled House could come as early as Wednesday.

The Senate version was referred to the Committee on Rules and Administration when it was introduced in May.

The office of House Minority Whip Katherine Clark, whose duties include recommending how rank-and-file conference members should vote on bills, last week urged colleagues to “VOTE NO” on the SAVE Act.

“As we've seen a number of times this Congress, House Republicans continue to irresponsibly call into question the credibility of our elections,” the statement reads. “Despite numerous recounts, challenges in court, and deep-dives by conservative think-tanks, there has been zero evidence of the widespread fraud that this bill purports to target. It is already illegal under current law for non-citizens to register to vote or to vote in federal elections.”

On the social media platform X, Tim Pool, host of the Timcast IRL podcast, reposted Axios’ story on the Democrats opposing the SAVE Act, asking, “What? Why? Who disagrees with this?”

Elon Musk replied to Pool’s post, writing, “Because they want to cheat.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson shared a Fox News article on the Democrats’ opposition to the SAVE Act, writing on X, “Why are Democrats so adamantly against ensuring only American citizens vote in our elections? They want to turn illegal aliens into voters. We must pass the SAVE Act to prevent this.”

On Friday, Musk reposted previous Johnson posts on the measure, and wrote: “Those who oppose this are traitors. All Caps: TRAITORS. What is the penalty for traitors again?”

The Biden administration released a policy statement Monday in opposition to the House bill.

“​​The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 8281, the Safeguard American Voter Eligibility Act. It is already illegal for noncitizens to vote in Federal elections – it is a Federal crime punishable by prison and fines.

“The alleged justification for this bill is based on easily disproven falsehoods. Additionally, making a false claim of citizenship or unlawfully voting in an election is punishable by removal from the United States and a permanent bar to admission. States already have effective safeguards in place to verify voters’ eligibility and maintain the accuracy of voter rolls." 

Nevertheless, Republicans and others are concerned – amid larger concerns about voter fraud – that non-citizens will vote in the November presidential election, most likely for Democrat President Joe Biden

Roy posted on X in response to administration's statement: “We in the @HouseGOP have our own SAP – a Statement of Awesome Policy – the common sense requirement that we require proof of American citizenship to register to vote in federal elections. Democrats oppose what over 80% of Americans want.”

Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., told the "Just the News, No Noise" TV show on Monday that Democrats  in Biden “have a very compromised candidate at the top of the ticket” whom “they've got to drag him across the finish line.”

“They need to get more people to vote” for Biden, Tenney said of Democrats. "How? they're going to do that is through this non-citizen voting.”

“If they can make sure that we don't have citizenship requirements, then these non-citizens, these people that the millions of 10 million or more that have come across our border, could end up voting in our elections, which could decide the election,” she said.

Regarding the likelihood of the bill passing passing in the House, then Democrat-controlled Senate, Tenney said, “I think we have the votes obviously in the House, we're not going to get the votes in the Senate unless something happens in the next couple of months with [Sen. Bob] Menendez, and we can get a couple of Democrats who are in tough districts to realize that they've got to support citizens voting.”

Should Menendez be found guilty in a federal corruption trial, with closing arguments concluding, he could resign from office, further narrowing fellow Democrats' already narrow majority.

While Democrats repeatedly claim that non-citizens voting is not an issue, an election integrity nonprofit and states have shown otherwise.

In May, J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), testified at a House Administration Committee hearing, saying, “Non-citizens are, in fact, getting onto American voter rolls, and some of them are voting. The data show that most often non-citizens are getting on the rolls through the motor voter registration process or third-party registration drives.” 

House Administration Committee Chairman Bryan Steil, R-Wis., said during the hearing that 500 non-citizens are registered to vote in Washington, D.C. 

According to a PILF report from last May, Chicago records show that 394 foreign nationals were removed from the city’s voter rolls since 2007, with 20 of them recorded as casting 85 ballots.

Also during that month, Virginia removed 1,481 voter registrations for lack of U.S. citizenship.

In April 2023, PILF reported that Maricopa County, Ariz., records showed that since 2015, 222 foreign nationals were removed from the county’s voter rolls, with nine of them recorded as casting 12 ballots across four federal elections. 

According to a February PILF report, since 2021, 186 registrants were removed from voter rolls Pima County, Ariz., for lack of U.S. citizenship. Of those, seven had cast ballots in two federal and local elections.

Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, North Dakota and Ohio have all included language in their state constitutions that prohibits non-citizen voting.

Meanwhile, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, and Wisconsin all have ballot measures for voters to decide this year whether non-citizens should be prohibited from voting in state elections.

Arizona has bifurcated elections, in which residents who provide proof of U.S. citizenship can vote in all elections while the rest may vote only in federal elections, resulting in ballots cast by voters who haven’t proven their U.S. citizenship. 

At least around 5,800 federal-only ballots were cast in the November 2020 presidential election in Arizona.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that Arizona must accept U.S. voter registration forms because of federal requirements under the NVRA. Federal voter registration forms require those filling them out only to sign a sworn declaration that they are U.S. citizens.

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