MAGA State Republicans Are Helping Perpetuate Trump’s Non-Citizen Voting Lie

The bad faith non-citizen voting bills being proposed by Republicans in state legislatures around the country serve to bolster the voter fraud myth Trump is poised to push if he loses in the fall — but the bills themselves may also disenfranchise actual eligible voters if passed.
Conway, SC - February 10 : Supporters cheer as Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump walks out to speak at a Get Out The Vote campaign rally held at Coastal Carolina University in Conway... Conway, SC - February 10 : Supporters cheer as Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump walks out to speak at a Get Out The Vote campaign rally held at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, SC on Saturday, Feb 10, 2024. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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The bad faith non-citizen voting bills being proposed by Republicans in state legislatures around the country serve to bolster the voter fraud myth Trump is poised to push if he loses in the fall — but the bills themselves may also disenfranchise actual eligible voters if passed.

Ahead of the 2024 election, Republican state lawmakers are mirroring an ongoing national campaign that’s been pushed by Donald Trump and his allies in recent weeks: proposing laws that perpetuate the false narrative that non-citizens have been and will continue to vote in federal elections. 

These bills, however, not only threaten to create a general sense of distrust in the election system, — they also threaten to potentially disenfranchise voters ahead of November by creating additional bureaucratic hurdles for eligible voters or by requiring election officials to rely on outdated voter data to determine citizenship. 

These state level efforts come against the backdrop of a larger national effort spearheaded by Trump, the RNC, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and other Republican representatives and election deniers to pass the Safeguard American Voter Eligibility (SAVE) Act, a redundant bill making it illegal for noncitizens to vote in federal elections.

The push is mostly a messaging effort: It is already illegal for non-citizens to vote and it’s something that rarely happens in U.S. elections. 

“It’s all kind of driven by the same political motivation to reduce trust in elections, to cast doubt on the integrity of the process and to demonize immigrants as the kind of source of the flaws perceived or real or not in our electoral system,” director of voting advocacy and partnerships at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, Jonathan Diaz, said in an interview with TPM. 

Since 2020, according to reporting from Voting Rights Lab, nine states have successfully enacted laws to prevent non citizens from voting, and similar legislation is currently active in sixteen states. 

“A state level law that tries to accomplish the same things as the SAVE Act will have a very real impact on voters in that state,” added Diaz. “They have the potential to erect barriers that will make it harder, if not impossible for certain people, eligible voters in those states, to register and vote.”

Most recently, North Carolina Republicans introduced a non-citizen voting bill that, if passed, would change the wording of the state constitution to read: “Only a citizen of the United States who is 18 years of age and possessing the qualifications set out in this Article, shall be entitled to vote at any election by the people of the State.” 

Nadine Gibson, political science professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, described the change as having “anti-immigrant undertones.”

“I think it’s like a dog whistle to anti-immigrant sentiments,” Gibson told the local StarNews.

In New Hampshire, GOP lawmakers are pushing for legislation requiring documentary proof of citizenship. The proposed bill would require proof of citizenship in order to register to vote in New Hampshire — it would also remove crucial exceptions to the state’s voter identification law. 

“When a state like New Hampshire proposes eliminating certain options like the affidavit for voters who don’t have the right paperwork but are nevertheless eligible, that has the potential to exclude significant segments of the electorate from participating in the election,” Diaz said.

And in Indiana, a similar bill passed by the legislature this year, is also designed to prevent non citizens from voting. The legislation creates proof of residency requirements for new registrants registering in-person and requires election officials to confirm citizenship status by comparing the statewide voter registration system with DMV data.  But this means any normal data entry errors or discrepancies in possibly outdated data from the DMV could result in eligible voters being wrongly disenfranchised

It’s also a lot more paperwork for those seeking to register, Ron Hayduk, political science professor at San Francisco State University, noted in conversation with TPM.

“Folks don’t readily have such documents on hand or would not be able to obtain them in a timely manner to provide such proof, and that would therefore end up disenfranchising eligible voters,” he said.  

Big picture, these types of laws send a “disenfranchising message to voters,” Andrew Garber, counsel within the Brennan Center’s Voting Rights and Elections Program, told TPM. 

“It can create voter intimidation, especially for voters who are naturalized citizens and who are eligible to vote, but may still identify with an immigrant community and may feel that they could get in trouble when in reality they have every right to vote,” Garber said.

And, as Diaz points out, these laws give local election administrators a lot of discretion in terms of how they are enforced, which increases the risk of racial profiling. 

“It really opens up the door to racial profiling, and to certain voters being subject to additional scrutiny and requirements and investigation just because of how they look or sound or what their last name is,” he said.

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