Democrat Witnesses Reject Citizens-Only Federal Voting

In a recent congressional hearing, none of the Democratic party’s witnesses were able to affirm that the right to vote in federal elections should be reserved exclusively for U.S. citizens.

The discussion took place during a Senate Judiciary Hearing on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act is aimed at federalizing election oversight—a measure that has sparked debate over state versus federal jurisdiction in election laws.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) asked witnesses for a straightforward “yes” or “no” on the matter of non-citizens participating in federal elections.

When questioned, Damon T. Hewitt, Executive Director of The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, stated, “We don’t have a position about non-citizens voting in federal elections, we believe that’s what the current laws are, and so we’re certainly fighting for everyone who is eligible under current law to vote.”

Lydia Camarillo, President of Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, hinted at a nuanced view, suggesting, “States decide who gets to vote in various elections, and in federal elections I believe that we should be encouraging people to naturalize and then vote.” However, when pressed by Lee on whether the federal government should dictate federal election voting rights, Camarillo replied, “I don’t have a position on that.”

Sophia Lin Lakin, Director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, responded to Lee, “Federal law prohibits non-citizens from voting in federal elections and our focus is on enabling all eligible voters to be able to vote and cast their ballot.”

Only two witnesses, both Republicans, asserted that non-citizens should not vote: Maureen Riordan of the Public Interest Legal Foundation and Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative.

The discussion also ventured into whether voter registration should require proof of U.S. citizenship. Camarillo dismissed the question as “redundant,” and Lakin criticized the practice as “discriminatory,” saying, “Documentary proof of citizenship or requirements are often discriminatory.”

Only Riordan and Spakovsky were in favor of mandating proof of citizenship for voters, with Senator Lee expressing concern over the reluctance of the other witnesses to affirm this position with either a “yes” or “no” response.

A recent decision from U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton upheld an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship to vote, with the decision stating, “Arizona’s interests in preventing non-citizens from voting and promoting public confidence in Arizona’s elections outweighs the limited burden voters might encounter when required to provide” proof of citizenship.