The D.C. Council’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee has approved a bill that would allow legal noncitizens to vote in city elections.
The Local Resident Voting Rights Act of 2021 would permit “permanent residents of the United States” to vote in local elections, according to the measure. The committee released a report Tuesday, recommending its approval by the D.C. Council. The vote was 4-0 in favor.
“Immigrants, whether naturalized citizens, permanent residents, asylum seekers, [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] recipients, undocumented residents, or otherwise, all contribute to the District and are essential to the fabric of our community,” the committee wrote, adding: “Noncitizens, like citizens, deserve the opportunity to have a voice in the issues that affect them and to participate in electing the representatives who make decisions on their behalf.”
The law would allow noncitizens to vote in elections for mayor, chairman or member of the council, attorney general, members of the state board of election, advisory neighborhood commissioner, or any initiative, referendum, recall, or charter referendum on a District ballot, according to the text of the bill.
The committee addressed arguments against noncitizen voting in its report, noting former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s opinion essay last December that argued that noncitizen voting “devalues citizenship.” The committee wrote that Bloomberg’s argument is “disingenuous and unsupported by evidence.”
The manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative at The Heritage Foundation, Hans von Spakovsky, says that the D.C. bill would be betraying citizens by effectively undercutting their vote. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
“Giving aliens, including those who have broken the law to come here illegally, the ability to vote is a fundamental betrayal of the rights of citizens to participate in the democratic process and choose their elected representatives,” von Spakovsky said. “Given the history of disenfranchisement of African American citizens of the District of Columbia, it is particularly odious that the city council is acting again to disenfranchise them by effectively diluting their votes.”
Von Spakovsky stressed the importance of making a commitment to the country before having a voice in government.
“Aliens who have not made the commitment to the U.S. Constitution, U.S. laws, and our political and cultural heritage by becoming citizens should not be allowed to participate in elections that affect how Americans are governed,” he said.
New York City attempted to pass a similar law that would have allowed “noncitizens who reside in the city for at least 30 days before an election and register or pre-register” to vote in local elections. However, the bill was struck down by the New York Supreme Court in June.
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