Lawmakers Introduce Bill Stripping Federal Funding from Cities that Let Noncitizens Vote
FAIR Take | December 2021
This month, the New York City Council voted to give noncitizens the power to vote in local elections. Reacting to this news, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) announced the proposal of a bill that would strip federal funding from localities that allow noncitizens to vote. The “Protecting Our Democracy by Preventing Foreign Citizens from Voting Act” would strip federal funding from any locality that allows noncitizen aliens to vote in any election regardless of jurisdiction. In the House, the bill has 38 cosponsors.
The rationale for giving noncitizens the right to vote is that because they live and work in their communities, they deserve a chance to have a say in how things run. The bill’s sponsor, Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, noted in remarks that “We are giving dignity and respect to close to 1 million New Yorkers who made important contributions. Their contribution should be valued and measured the same as any other New Yorkers’.” Montgomery County, Maryland used such a justification when it gave noncitizen aliens the right to vote in local school board elections, noting that many children in the public schools had noncitizen parents.
This argument seems compelling, but it sets a dangerous precedent that destroys the notion and responsibilities of citizenship. Rep. Duncan noted in the bill’s press release that “today, it’s local elections, but tomorrow, it could be state or nationwide elections.” Even Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and 2020 Democratic presidential primary candidate, penned an op-ed arguing against noncitizen voting. Bloomberg argues that “the biggest problem with noncitizen voting… is that it devalues citizenship” and that noncitizens will feel less inclined to pursue citizenship because of it.
Rep. Duncan’s and Senator Rubio’s bill is a commonsense proposal that defends the contours of American citizenship from attempts to erode it. Given the partisan makeup of the House and Senate, this bill will not become law in the current Congress. However, should Republicans take back control of the House and Senate following the 2022 midterm elections, this bill should receive consideration. Would President Joe Biden veto a law strengthening citizenship and defending American citizens’ voting rights? We cannot know until we try.