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House Passes GOP Bill Requiring Proof of Citizenship to Vote, Boosting Election-Year Talking Point
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By Associated Press
Published 2 days ago on
July 10, 2024

The bill championed by Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson advances but faces opposition in the Senate and White House. (AP/Mariam Zuhaib)

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a proof-of-citizenship requirement for voter registration, a proposal Republicans have prioritized as an election-year talking point even as research shows noncitizens illegally registering and casting ballots in federal elections is exceptionally rare.

The legislation, approved largely along partisan lines but with a few Democrats voting in favor, is unlikely to advance through the Democratic-led Senate. The Biden administration also says it’s strongly opposed because it says safeguards already are in place to verify voter eligibility and enforce the law against noncitizen voting.

Still, the House vote will give Republicans an opportunity to bring attention to two of their central issues this year — border and election security.

Noncitizen Voting: A Rare Occurrence

Research and audits in several states show there have been incidences of noncitizens who successfully registered to vote and cast ballots, but it happens rarely and is typically by mistake. States have mechanisms to check for it, although there isn’t one standard protocol they all follow.

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson, a key backer of the bill, said in a news conference earlier this week that the Democratic opposition means many Democrats “want illegals to participate in our federal elections; they want them to vote.”

Democrats and Voting Rights Advocates Respond

Democrats and voting rights advocates have said the legislation is unnecessary because it’s already a felony for noncitizens to register to vote in federal elections, punishable by fines, prison or deportation. Anyone registering must attest under penalty of perjury that they are a U.S. citizen. Noncitizens also are not allowed to cast ballots at the state level. A handful of municipalities allow them to vote in some local elections.

They also have pointed to surveys showing that millions of Americans don’t have easy access to up-to-date documentary proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, naturalization certificate or passport, and therefore the bill could inhibit U.S. citizen voters who aren’t able to further prove their status.

Republican Support and State Responses

Yet Republicans who support the bill say the unprecedented surge of migrants illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border creates too large a risk of noncitizens slipping through the cracks. They could purposely or inadvertently break the law to cast ballots that sway races amid narrow margins in November’s elections.

If passed, the bill would require noncitizens to be removed from state voter rolls and require new applicants to provide documentary proof of U.S. citizenship. It also would require states to establish a process for applicants who can’t show proof to provide other evidence beyond their attestation of citizenship, though it’s unclear what that evidence could include.

Several secretaries of state, interviewed during their summer conference in Puerto Rico this week, said noncitizens attempting to register and vote is not a big problem in their state.

Upcoming Republican National Convention

The House vote comes days after the Republican National Committee released its party platform, which emphasizes border security issues and takes a stand against Democrats giving “voting rights” to migrants living in the country illegally.

Republicans are expected to shine a light on their immigration and election integrity concerns at the Republican National Convention next week in Milwaukee, where Trump is scheduled to accept his third straight nomination for president.

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