Oklahoma Senate Moves to Ensure Only US Citizens Are Voting in State Elections

Oklahoma Senate Moves to Ensure Only US Citizens Are Voting in State Elections
Signs at a shopping center encourage residents to vote in the state's GOP primary runoff elections in Muskogee, Okla., on Aug. 23, 2022. (Jeff Louderback/The Epoch Times)
Katabella Roberts
Updated:
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The Oklahoma Senate has approved legislation aimed to help county election boards remove illegal aliens from voter registration rolls in a move that lawmakers say will prevent unlawful voting from taking place.

The bill, known as SB 377, was authored by state Sen. Brent Howard (R-District 38) at the request of the Oklahoma secretary of the State Election Board.

Specifically, under the legislation, the voter registration of anyone who has been excused from jury duty for not being a U.S. citizen would be canceled.

According to the bill (pdf), the county court clerks would prepare a list each month of all individuals “excused from jury duty for not being a citizen of the United States and provide the list to the secretary of the county election board.”

Once the list has been acquired, the local election board secretary would then be required to “cancel the registration of each registered voter included on the list” and “report the person or persons to the district attorney and the United States attorney for the county.”

The bill, which would go into effect on Nov. 1, passed the Senate in a 45–1 vote on Feb. 22, with seven of the Senate’s eight Democrats joining Republicans in supporting the bill.

It had its first reading in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, where Republicans hold a supermajority, on Feb. 23.

‘Logical Step to Ensure Voter Roll Integrity’

“Voting is our greatest freedom as U.S. citizens, and we must ensure that our elections are not disrupted by illegal voting,” Howard said in a statement on Feb. 22 after the vote.

“This is an easy way to help county election boards identify noncitizens who may be registered to vote and remove them from the rolls. County court clerks are already required to submit monthly notifications of felony convictions to the county election board secretaries, so this will be a similar process.”

Separately, Howard told The Federalist that the bill is a “common-sense approach to ensuring voter roll integrity” and preventing unlawful voting.

The Republican lawmakers said the legislation was conceived by the secretary of the State Election Board due to concerns among county officials that individuals might claim, either truthfully or falsely, that they can’t serve on a jury because they aren’t U.S. citizens.

“We have other requirements for our court clerks to report to the election secretaries if a person makes a claim that would otherwise disqualify them from being a registered voter, like a convicted felon or moved from the jurisdiction, so we all felt this was a logical step to ensure voter roll integrity,” Howard said. “We feel the significance [of this bill] is that if someone will self-profess they are unable to serve their civic duty of serving on a jury because they are not a citizen, then we need to ensure they are not also on the voter rolls.”

While non-U.S. citizens are prohibited from voting in federal elections, including those for president, vice president, the Senate, and House of Representatives, ambiguous language in constitutions has allowed states or municipalities from granting noncitizens the right to vote in local races or school board elections.

As a result, some states are moving to change the wording of their constitutions as it pertains to voting rights.

People vote at a polling site at a public school in New York City, on Nov. 8, 2016. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
People vote at a polling site at a public school in New York City, on Nov. 8, 2016. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

States Ban Voting for Non-US Citizens

In November 2022, voters in Ohio approved an amendment to the state constitution that would reword it from its original, stating that the Ohio Constitution guarantees voting rights for “every citizen” of the United States who meets certain criteria to “only citizens” of the United States who meet certain criteria.
In December 2022, Louisiana voters approved a similar measure banning non-U.S. citizens from voting in elections. A string of other states, including Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, and North Dakota, have approved similar measures.

Yet while Republican lawmakers seek to ensure that voting is a privilege granted only to U.S. citizens, dozens of Democrat-led states are advocating for noncitizens to be allowed to vote in local elections, pointing to protections under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In 2022, New York City passed a law extending the right to vote in elections to noncitizens who are lawful permanent residents, but that law was later struck down by a state Supreme Court judge who ruled it was unconstitutional.

In October 2022, the District of Columbia city council approved the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2022, allowing some 50,000 noncitizen residents—including those in the country illegally—to vote in local elections as long as they have lived in the district for 30 days.

However, the House of Representatives voted in February to overturn the bill.

Still, states and cities, such as Connecticut and San Francisco, have introduced bills that would allow noncitizens to vote in municipal and state elections.

Earlier in February, Democrats in Rhode Island introduced legislation that would grant cities and towns authorization to allow all residents to vote in their municipal elections, regardless of their immigration status.

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