Reformers Seek to Block DC Law Allowing Noncitizen Voters
WASHINGTON — A group of Washington, D.C., voters is suing to overturn a new local law giving noncitizen residents a right to vote.
They say the law infringes on American citizens’ right to self-government and dilutes the value of their votes.
“It follows from our national independence that United States citizens have a right to govern and be governed by themselves,” the lawsuit says.
The new right to vote for noncitizens under the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act discriminates against American citizens based on their national origin, which violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fifth Amendment, according to the lawsuit.
The Immigration Reform Law Institute filed the lawsuit on behalf of seven Washington residents in D.C. Superior Court. The law took effect Feb. 23.
“The proponents of this law claim it gives citizens of foreign nations a ‘voice’ in the affairs of the city they reside in. But they already have a voice, protected by the First Amendment,” said Christopher Hajec, the institute’s director of litigation. “They are free to speak, write, attend council meetings and so on.”
The consequences of giving foreigners a right to vote in American elections are likely to be far-reaching, Hajec said.
“This law doesn’t just give foreign citizens a voice in our country’s affairs, it gives them voting power that politicians inevitably will have to respond to,” he said. “That transfer of power flies in the face of the clear right of the American people to govern themselves.”
The law received the same kind of criticism in the House of Representatives but the U.S. Senate failed to veto it before the statutory deadline set for congressional review of District of Columbia laws.
The law allows noncitizen residents who have lived in Washington for at least one month before an election to vote for mayor, D.C. council, D.C. attorney general, board of education members and advisory neighborhood commissioners. They cannot vote in federal elections.
The noncitizen residents must present government-issued identification at polling stations and they must renounce their voting rights in any other state, territory or country.
D.C. Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau authored the law. “Our neighbors — who pay taxes, attend our schools, and contribute to the vibrancy of our communities — will now also have a say in who represents them in our local government,” Nadeau said in a statement.
More than a dozen municipalities have noncitizen voting laws. They can be found in California, Maryland and Vermont.
The case is Hall et al. v. D.C. Board of Elections in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia.
You can reach us at [email protected] and follow us on Facebook and Twitter