The GOP and the false problem of voting by non-citizens

Let’s make something clear: voting by non-citizens is generally not a problem in the United States, because a federal law in 1996 already expressly prohibits people who are not citizens from voting in federal elections. Those who do face severe penalties including fines, prison (or both), inadmissibility, and even deportation.

The District of Columbia and some municipalities, in just three states in the nation, permit non-citizens to vote in local elections. But their participation in federal contests is strictly prohibited.

Despite this reality, Republicans led by Donald Trump want to create the perception that the problem of fraudulent voting by non-citizens exists, for various reasons — among them, laying the groundwork to question the results of the presidential election in case they lose to Joe Biden on November 5th.

On May 8th Chip Roy, a Republican Congressman from Texas, introduced — together with 49 Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives, including Speaker of the House Mike Johnson — the SAVE Act 2024 legislation which, according to Roy, seeks to “end the practice of non-citizens voting in our elections.”

Mike Lee, the Republican Senator from Utah who sponsored the companion bill in the Senate, affirmed that, undocumented immigrants and non-citizens “across the nation are being improperly registered to vote, allowing them to cast illegitimate ballots in federal elections.”

The SAVE Act of 2024 requires people who register to vote to present documents that prove their citizenship, whether that be a passport or birth certificate.

Voting by non-citizens is not a real problem. In this same space I wrote a month ago that in 2017 the Brennan Center for Justice reviewed voting data in 42 jurisdictions and 12 states from the 2016 general elections and found only 30 votes that they suspect were from non-citizens, out of a total of 23.5 million votes cast in those jurisdictions.

USA Today reported that Johnson could not offer statistics of non-citizens voting in federal elections to justify the legislation. “We all know, intuitively, that a lot of illegals are voting in federal elections. But it’s not been something that is easily provable. We don’t have that number,” admitted Johnson.

The measure, which could be approved by the House but not the majority-Democrat Senate, has other intentions.

Republicans are trying to erode public confidence in our electoral system in case Trump loses so that, as in 2020, they can say there was “fraud.”

That is particularly ironic because in 2020 those who wanted to steal the election were Trump and his entourage, even leading a bloody assault on the federal Capitol on January 6, 2021 to impede the certification of Biden’s legitimate win.

As the saying goes, a thief thinks everyone steals, and the same Republicans who wanted to steal the 2020 election are now accusing non-citizens of voting in a fraudulent manner.

But it is even worse because Roy’s declarations suggest that one of the motives for presenting the measure is the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, where extremists argue Democrats are trying to replace white people with immigrants and minorities of color, in order to take their political power from them. That theory, along with that of the “invasion” of migrants and “open borders,” have inspired the authors of various massacres against people of color in the United States.

Roy declared, “secure elections are a key cornerstone for any representative government; without them, we won’t have a country. Radical progressive Democrats know this and are using open border policies while also attacking election integrity laws to fundamentally remake America.” “Remaking” implies “replacing.”

A new report from America’s Voice, published on the second anniversary of the massacre in Buffalo, New York on May 14, 2022, by a believer in the “Great Replacement” theory, found that 165 legislators in the current 118th Congress “have employed this rhetoric in their official capacity 584 times.” The same report says that congressional Republicans “used the language 31 times in congressional hearings and 96 times on the floor of Congress.”

It is the Republican normalization of white supremacy. And non-citizens are, once again, their favorite scapegoat.

The original Spanish version is here.


  • Maribel Hastings

    Maribel Hastings is a Senior Advisor and columnist at America’s Voice and America’s Voice Education Fund. A native of Puerto Rico, Maribel is a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico with a major in public communications and a history minor. She worked for La Opinión, and became La Opinión’s first Washington, D.C. correspondent in 1993. Maribel has received numerous awards, including the 2007 Media Leadership Award from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) for her coverage of the immigration debate in the U.S. Senate.

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