Democrats in the House on March 8 voted to oppose a measure lambasting illegal immigrants’ voting in elections, a sharp reversal of a previous Republican attempt to discourage such practices.
The 228-197 vote marks a major reversal from when the GOP controlled the chamber about six months ago, according to the Washington Times. At the time Republicans voted to denounce illegal immigrant voting.
“We are prepared to open up the political process and let all of the people come in,” Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, told colleagues as he led opposition to the GOP measure.
The vote on illegal immigrants came amid a broader bill dubbed the HR 1, or “For the People Act,” which purportedly aims at reducing the role of big money in politics, ensuring fair elections, and strengthening ethics standards, according to the Associated Press.
However, Republican lawmakers have slammed the bill as anti-democratic and unconstitutional.
“H.R. 1 is not only a bad bill, many provisions in it are unconstitutional,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) wrote on Twitter. “In summary, it forces states to restore voting rights of felons, endangers First Amendment rights, Federalizes congressional redistricting, and Turns the FEC into a partisan organization.”
Even if the latest measure on illegal immigrant voting passes, it will not have any practical effect. The bill will face strong opposition in the GOP-controlled Senate and Federal law still states that illegal aliens are not legally allowed to vote in federal elections.
Meanwhile, the GOP-backed measure would have added language to the “H.R. 1” election proposal stating that “allowing illegal immigrants the right to vote devalues the franchise and diminishes the voting power of United States citizens,” according to Fox News.
Republicans expressed disappointment in the vote, as they hoped to send a message to cities such as San Francisco that allow illegal immigrants to vote in school board elections.
“It sounds like I’m making it up. What kind of government would cancel the vote of its own citizens, and replace it with noncitizens?” said Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), according to the Washington Times.
Crenshaw pointed out that last year 49 Democrats joined the GOP to decry non-citizens voting.
In this year’s vote on March 8, only six Democrats voted in favor of it.
Lawmakers approved the H.R. 1 bill Friday, 234-193. Republicans call the bill a power grab that amounts to a federal takeover of elections.
But it was not only conservatives who opposed the bill. In a March 1 letter to Congress, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also urged lawmakers to vote against the proposal.
“We strongly urge the Rules Committee to allow floor amendments that would mitigate our concerns with the provisions that unconstitutionally infringe the freedoms of speech and association,” the letter stated.
It continued, saying that there are “provisions in the bill that unconstitutionally impinge on the free speech rights of American citizens and public interest organizations. They will have the effect of harming our public discourse by silencing necessary voices that would otherwise speak out about the public issues of the day.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report