Voters Pass State Constitutional Amendments to Ensure Only Citizens Can Vote
FAIR | November 2020
Many state constitutions do not specifically limit the right to vote to US citizens. Because this right has not been limited, there have been both legal immigrants, who are not yet citizens, and illegal aliens who have been permitted to vote in certain local elections in specific cities or towns (like some town councils in Maryland and the school board in San Francisco.) Open-borders advocates continue to push the ability for non-citizens to vote thus diluting the value of citizenship. However, in the 2020 elections, three states (Alabama, Colorado, and Florida) decided to ensure only citizens voted in their state and local elections. These states placed constitutional amendments on their ballots to expressly limit voting to U.S. citizens only. In every one of those states, voters agreed the right to vote should be reserved solely for U.S. citizens.
Former Missouri State Senator John Loudon (R) spearheaded these ballot initiatives in all three states. He said the issue in most states was that their constitutions grant voting rights to every U.S. citizen over the age 18 but not only to them. He elaborated that the language in most state constitutions is inadequate as evidenced by successful efforts to give legal voting rights to non-citizens in local and school board elections all across the country. He expects that additional states will consider similar measures in the future and says “[w]e’re on a roll.”
Citizen-only voting in Alabama was placed on the ballot as Amendment 1 by the state legislature, which required a three-fifths supermajority in both chambers. The Alabama Senate approved the initiative on May 8, 2019 and the House followed on May 30, 2019. While no legislator voted in opposition, 32 Democrats between both chambers abstained (voted present but did not take a position on the matter).
State Representative Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs), the House sponsor, said “[a]ll this bill does is affirm that to vote in Alabama elections, you have to be a resident of Alabama and a citizen of the United States. One citizen, one vote is something we hold sacred as Americans, and I don’t know anybody who disagrees with that … Quite frankly, I don’t even know why there is any debate on this bill, but it seems as though liberals on the national level want to expand voting to non-citizens for political purposes and I want to make it clear that is not something we support.”
Alabama voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 1 by a vote of 1,518,469 to 453,330. It was supported by over 77 percent while just under 23 percent opposed it.
Despite continuing to support legislators that have turned Colorado into a sanctuary state, the voters also approved their citizens-only voting amendment, Amendment 76.
Amendment 76 got on the ballot by petition. For a constitutional amendment to get on the ballot in Colorado, signatures from 5 percent of the number of registered voters who cast a ballot for Secretary of State in the previous election, as well as at least 2 percent from each of the state’s 35 state senate districts are required. On December 12, 2019, the Colorado Secretary of State certified that Amendment 76 had received 137,362 verified signatures and it was placed on the ballot for 2020.
Amendment 76 was vigorously opposed by the Democrat legislative leadership as well as by open-borders groups that were instrumental in turning Colorado into a sanctuary state in 2019. Despite the organized opposition to the Amendment, Coloradans voted in favor of the Amendment 1,984,769 to 1,170,876. The Amendment had 62.9 percent support – more than the 55 percent needed to pass.
Former State Rep. Joe Stengel (R-Littleton), one of the amendment’s leading supporters, explained that “[t]he original intent of the constitution of Colorado was that a citizen and only a citizen would be entitled to vote. This simply codifies [that] in unambiguous language.”
In Florida, like Alabama, the citizens-only voting amendment was the first constitutional amendment to make the ballot for 2020 and so it became Amendment 1. Unlike Alabama’s amendment, Florida’s got on the ballot by petition.
In order to for a constitutional amendment to get on the ballot by petition, Florida requires signatures of 8 percent of the total voters who cast a ballot for President in the previous election. It also requires that the signatures be collected from more than half (14) of the state’s 27 congressional districts.
The Division of Elections of the Florida Secretary of State’s office certified that Amendment 1 qualified for the 2020 ballot on September 19, 2019, with 927,908 verified signatures. After the Division of Elections certified that the number of signatures reached the threshold required, the Florida Supreme Court then had to determine that the proposed amendment was confined to a single subject and that the ballot language was sufficiently clear, which it did on January 16, 2020.
Florida constitutional amendments require 60 percent voter support in order to be adopted. Florida voters favored Amendment 1 by nearly a 4:1 margin despite almost uniform opposition from the major media outlets which editorialized heavily again it. Amendment 1 received 79 percent of the vote (8,306,268 supported while 2,169,221 opposed.)
Loudon noted that in Florida, his “polling showed that the strongest support for the amendment came from naturalized citizens regardless of party.” His finding is not surprising since legal immigrants who have spent thousands of dollars and many years to follow our laws in many cases value citizenship even more than those born here.