D.C. Council Passes Alien Voting
FAIR Take | October 2022
The Washington, D.C. city council recently passed a bill granting foreign nationals, including illegal aliens, the right to vote in the District’s local elections. The bill that passed by a vote of 12-1 on October 18 allows aliens who have been “residents” in D.C. for 30 days to vote in local elections. The bill has not yet been sent to Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and its fate remains uncertain.
D.C. Bill (B) 24-0300, introduced on June 9, 2021, by Councilmember Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) and cosponsored by six other councilmembers, changes the D.C. Code’s definition of “qualified elector” to no longer require American citizenship to vote for D.C.’s local offices and local ballot questions. As first introduced, the bill expanded the eligibility to vote only to legal permanent residents (“green card” holders). However, when the bill was voted out of the council’s Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety on September 27, 2022, it had been amended to allow anyone, regardless of immigration status, to be eligible to vote for D.C. local offices and ballot questions if they’re over 18 and have lived in D.C. for more than 30 days.
The only vote against the bill came from Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), who contended that the 30-day residency requirement was not enough in light of illegal aliens being bused from the border. Councilmember Cheh said, “I find it unacceptable to say that somebody who has had no connection at all with the United States, with its culture, its democracy, can be dropped off here, reside for 30 days, and vote in a local election. What is wrong with asking they stay a little bit longer?”
D.C.’s expanded voting rights bill is even more extreme than the one enacted by New York City in January, which has been enjoined by a state trial court but which the city has appealed. The New York City voting bill requires prospective alien voters to have legal authorization to work in the US and to reside in the city for 60 days.
The Washington Post strongly condemned the D.C. Council’s move and called for the mayor to veto it. Conveying the newspaper’s official position, the editorial board described the alien voting bill as “a bad idea,” “unwise” and “radical,” noting that “[t]here’s nothing in this measure to prevent employees at embassies of governments that are openly hostile to the United States from casting ballots. Or foreign students who are studying abroad in Washington for a semester.” They added that “[t]he proposed law presents logistical nightmares that will require the Board of Elections to print separate ballots so that noncitizens don’t vote in federal races.” And finally they warned “Democratic leaders might be handing a political gift to the GOP just three weeks before the midterms … [m]any Republicans will point to this as validation of their claims that Democrats want open borders so they can win more elections.” Republicans are expected to take control of the US House of Representatives in November’s midterms and possibly the Senate as well.
Reaction to the news from Capitol Hill Republicans was swift and furious, appearing to prove the Post’s editorial correct. Calling the D.C. bill an “insane policy” and “an insult to every voter in America,” Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) announced plans to introduce legislation to block the move, while Representative August Pfluger (R-TX) introduced similar legislation in the House.
Additionally, Republican members of the House Committee on Government Oversight & Reform and Committee on House Administration, led by Rep. James Comer (R-KY), sent a letter to Mayor Bowser urging her to veto the bill, saying “the local D.C. government has endorsed a policy that undermines the sovereignty of the United States by allowing non-citizens to vote in elections held in the Nation’s capital. The D.C. Council’s arrogance and hostility toward actual Americans will have earned it profound repercussions, should the United States Congress change to more sensible stewardship in the near future.”
As of the publication of this update, the bill did not appear to have been presented to the mayor. Once it has been sent to her, she will have 10 business days to sign or veto it or let it become law without her signature. Should the bill become law, under the 1973 D.C. Home Rule Act, Congress would then have thirty days to pass and the President to sign a joint resolution blocking any changes to D.C. law. Already there have been discussions on Capitol Hill to ensure illegal aliens are not allowed to vote.
As in New York City, should alien voting be enacted in Washington, D.C., immediate court challenges would be nearly certain.