DC Council Committee Hears Alien Voting Bill
FAIR Take | August 2022
Recently, a Washington DC City Council Committee held a hearing on a bill to give foreign nationals voting privileges in the District of Columbia’s local elections.
Bill (B) 24-0300, the so-called “Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2021,” was introduced by Councilmember Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) on June 9, 2021. It was referred to the Council’s Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety where it languished for almost a year.
The bill’s language provides that Lawful Permanent Residents (“green card” holders) would be able to vote in the District’s local elections, (mayor, attorney general, council, school board and neighborhood area councils) however, they would be unable to vote in federal elections. The bill would require the DC Board of Elections to create separate voter rolls and ballots for local and federal elections since federal law prohibits anyone but American citizens from voting for President, Vice-President or the District’s Delegate to the US House of Representatives. When a similar bill was proposed in 2015, then Board of Elections’ Chair Clifford Tatum described this legislation as “creat[ing] a number of ‘administrative and logistical hurdles’” which would require “significant financial resources.”
On June 2, 2022, Committee Chair Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), posted a hearing notice setting the bill for hearing in his committee on July 7. The committee heard testimony at its July 7 hearing but has not yet taken a vote on the bill.
Only seven of the council’s thirteen members have signed onto the bill as sponsor or cosponsor. Notably, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) has not become a cosponsor. Council Chairman Mendelson is important because he will determine the meeting agenda for the full council. If he does not support this proposal, it will not get a full council hearing regardless of whether it is voted out of committee.
Likewise, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) has been conspicuously quiet about this legislation. If the bill passes the full council and she vetoes it, a two-thirds supermajority would be required for a veto override. This means 10 out of the 14 council members would need to support the override. While not impossible, this seems unlikely.
If the bill ends up passing the council and gets signed by the mayor, Congress will have 30 days to block any legislation under the DC Home Rule Act. At this juncture, since the U.S. Congress is controlled by the Democrats, it is unlikely to block this legislation.