According to local media, the review time for a recently approved measure permitting such voting to occur concluded last week, meaning that non-citizens who have lived in Washington, D.C. for at least 30 days can now participate in local city elections.
Last year, the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act was approved by D.C. city council members on the first reading. Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser refused to veto the measure but she allowed it to pass without her signature. However, because the district is located within the federal territory, the actions of the city council are subject to congressional review.
The House voted to prevent the bill from going into effect after legislators on Capitol Hill had 30 session days to protest it, WAMU reported. But before the review period was over, the Senate ran out of time.
According to WAMU, the new law still has to collect financing totaling around $1.6 million to establish the new non-citizen voter registry. Congress also has the option to veto the legislation by forbidding D.C. authorities from spending any money towards it taking effect.
Charles Allen, a member of the Washington, D.C., city council, presented the legislation in Oct. 2020, stating that it is consistent with the principles of the chamber and its track record of advancing voting rights.
At the time of the vote, Allen said, “Our immigrant neighbors of all statuses engage, contribute, and care about our community within our city.”
Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, the bill’s primary sponsor, boasted that she “championed expanding voting rights so that people who’ve made the District their home have the right for their voices to be included in our local issues, regardless of their immigration status,” during the bill’s passage last year.
In a commentary published on November 23, the Wall Street Journal editorial board stated that the bill gives illegal immigrants and diplomats from other countries the ability to vote locally.
The action was taken in response to claims made by Biden administration officials that they were seeking to add Washington, D.C., as the 51st state to the Union and grant the city the authority to manage its own local affairs.
With the backing of 42 Democrats, House Republicans passed a resolution to prevent the bill from going into force.
The chairman of the House Oversight Committee, James Comer (R-KY), filed the resolution on D.C. voting after earlier cautioning against such “misguided initiatives that would permit criminality to run rampant and disenfranchise American residents in our nation’s capital.”
Comer stated in a statement to Fox News that “voting is a bedrock of American democracy and a constitutional privilege that obviously needs to be maintained and preserved for citizens of this nation. The reckless choice made by the D.C. Council to provide the ability to vote in municipal elections to non-citizens and undocumented immigrants is an assault on the foundation of this country.”
Republicans in Congress were criticized by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) for sponsoring “undemocratic” and “paternalistic” resolutions that would override the D.C. Council.
She asserted that “the D.C. City Council was entitled to set its own regulations for inhabitants of the District. And if any member of this body does not agree with it, they may alter their registration, resign from their position, and run for D.C. City Council.”
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced a bill in January to prohibit non-citizens from exercising voting rights reserved for American citizens in local elections in Washington, D.C. He claimed that doing so violates the nation’s constitutional principles and “naively invites foreign meddling into our elections.”
Cruz added, “Voting is a privilege and the means by which American citizens exercise their voice in who leads our nation, how we spend our tax money, and what policies should be implemented. I passionately oppose undermining the legitimacy of American citizens’ ballots and disregarding the rule of law in this country.”
Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), a fellow Republican who called the non-citizen voting law “insane,” also submitted a resolution in Congress in December to prevent it from going into effect.