Group Sues to Block DC Law Allowing Noncitizens to Vote in Local Elections

Group Sues to Block DC Law Allowing Noncitizens to Vote in Local Elections
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at a news conference in Washington on March 7, 2020. (Patrick Semansky/AP Photo)
Matthew Vadum

A good-government group is suing the District of Columbia to block its new law allowing noncitizens—legal or otherwise—from voting in local elections.

The law, which took effect on March 14 after Congress failed to overturn it, authorizes an estimated 50,000 noncitizen residents, including illegal aliens, to participate in local district elections.

Critics say allowing noncitizens to vote in U.S. elections at any level of government cheapens U.S. citizenship and dilutes the votes of U.S. citizens while weakening civic values.

Such voting also violates the fundamental constitutional right of citizens to vote and denies them equal protection of the law, they say.

The Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2022, allows noncitizens—who are at least 18 on Election Day, who have lived in the district for at least 30 days prior to the election, and who haven’t been found by a court of law to be ineligible to vote—to cast a ballot in local elections.

The measure enjoyed nearly unanimous support on the D.C. Council and became law without the signature of Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat.

Act supporter and Democratic council member Charles Allen said on Sept. 27, 2022, that the law was needed because “immigrants, whether naturalized citizens, legal permanent residents, asylum seekers, DACA recipients, undocumented residents, or otherwise are valued members of our community. They are us.”

DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a federal policy that shields certain people who arrived in the United States at an early age from deportation and provides them with a work permit.

Critics say DACA is a kind of immigration amnesty.

“Immigrants care deeply about issues affecting their communities and families like gun control, climate change, health care, affordable housing, quality schools, access to healthy food—issues that affect all residents and are directly influenced by our local government,” Allen said.

“Our non-citizen neighbors, many of whom have lived, worked, and raised a family in the district for decades deserve the opportunity to have a stake in their government and determine their own leaders just as we all do.”

The District of Columbia, the land for which was originally ceded by Maryland and Virginia, isn’t a state, but U.S. citizens in the federal enclave have been allowed to vote in presidential elections since the 23rd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution took effect in 1978.

The district is very heavily Democrat and has voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic presidential candidate in every general election since the amendment was ratified.

Under home rule provisions, laws enacted by the D.C. Council, which is elected by district voters, may be overturned if both houses of Congress agree.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution on Feb. 9 disapproving the local law but the U.S. Senate failed to follow suit, which allowed the law to take effect.

Christopher Hajec, director of litigation at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which is representing the plaintiffs, denounced the law.

“This law—and others like it that are popping up around the country—is a direct attack on American self-government,” Hajec said in a statement provided to The Epoch Times.

“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.

“They are free to speak, write, attend council meetings, and so on. 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.

“That transfer of power flies in the face of the clear right of the American people to govern themselves.”

At least 15 municipalities in the United States have authorized noncitizens to vote in local elections, including major cities such as San Francisco and New York. New York City’s law, which would have enfranchised an estimated 800,000 noncitizens, was struck down by a court for running afoul of the state constitution.

Dale Wilcox, executive director and general counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, added: “The sovereign of this democratic nation is the people, U.S. citizens.

“When their power is eroded, our nation begins to lose its independence. And that erosion will escalate. If laws like this are not struck down, next there will be calls in many states to allow aliens to vote in statewide and even federal elections.”

The lead plaintiff in the D.C. lawsuit is Stacia Hall, the 2022 Republican candidate for district mayor. The other seven plaintiffs are also U.S. citizens.

The legal complaint in Hall v. District of Columbia Board of Elections was filed on March 14 in the District of Columbia Superior Court.
The lawsuit came as Republicans sued the city of Winooski, Vermont, to block a local ordinance that permits foreigners to vote in school board elections.

The D.C. Board of Elections didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.