US House to vote on bill to require proof of citizenship to vote despite no evidence of non-citizen ballots

<span>The House speaker, Mike Johnson, who has claimed ‘we all know – intuitively – that a lot of illegals are voting in federal elections’, though there has been no proof of that.</span><span>Photograph: REX/Shutterstock</span>
The House speaker, Mike Johnson, who has claimed ‘we all know – intuitively – that a lot of illegals are voting in federal elections’, though there has been no proof of that.Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Congressional Republicans will vote this week on a bill to require people to show proof of citizenship to register to vote, a move that comes as they lay the groundwork for undermining election results in November.

The House will vote on the Safeguard American Voter Eligibility bill, or Save Act, which would make states require, in person, documents that prove a person is a US citizen when registering to vote. This can include a Real ID, passport or other kinds of identification that show a person’s place of birth. It wouldn’t include a standard drivers license as a sole form of identification and calls for a secondary proof of place of birth alongside it, like a birth certificate.

It also calls for states to remove non-citizens from their rolls and for the homeland security department to potentially start the deportation process for people unlawfully registered.

These changes, voting rights advocates warn, would prevent some US citizens from voting – such as those who don’t have the proper documentation or the ability to provide it in person. The bill could lead to people who are able to vote, such as naturalized citizens, college students and tribal voters, being removed from voter rolls.

It is already illegal for non-citizens to vote in federal elections. It’s also illegal to register to vote if you aren’t eligible – federal voter registration forms require you to attest that you are a US citizen. Some local elections allow non-citizen participation, but it is not the norm. There is no evidence of widespread non-citizen voting.

Trump pressured Congress to approve the bill on Tuesday, writing on Truth Social: “Republicans must pass the Save Act, or go home and cry yourself to sleep. Non citizen Illegal Migrants are getting the right to vote, being pushed by crooked Democrat Politicians who are not being stopped by an equally dishonest Justice Department. Our whole voting system is under siege.”

The bill is unlikely to pass in the Democrat-controlled Senate or make it into law, as the Biden White House has said it does not approve of it. The White House said in a statement that it “strongly opposes” the bill, indicating the president would veto it if it somehow made it to his desk.

“This bill would do nothing to safeguard our elections, but it would make it much harder for all eligible Americans to register to vote and increase the risk that eligible voters are purged from voter rolls,” the statement says.

Non-citizen voting has become a key plank for Republicans as it combines two red-meat issues in the Trump era: illegal immigration and voter fraud. With an influx of asylum seekers coming into the country in the Biden administration, Trump and his allies have turned up the heat on non-citizen voting claims, a longtime Republican talking point.

Far-right figures, including Cleta Mitchell, have formed a coalition to push the idea. Heritage Action, the political arm of the conservative thinktank behind Project 2025, considers approval of the Save Act a “key vote” in its scorecard for lawmakers. Elon Musk, the owner of X, has promoted the bill as well, alluding to the death penalty as a consequence for people who didn’t support the Save Act: “Those who oppose this are traitors. All Caps: TRAITORS. What is the penalty for traitors again?”

Proponents of the bill have not offered proof that rampant non-citizen voting, or even non-citizens registering to vote, is happening, relying instead on gut feelings. Mike Johnson, the House speaker, said during a press conference on the bill that “we all know – intuitively – that a lot of illegals are voting in federal elections. But it’s not been something that is easily provable.”

The bill is just one part of Republican efforts to go after perceived non-citizen voting. An executive order from Biden in 2021 that called on agencies to increase voter registration has become an unlikely source of pushback because of claims it could involve registering non-citizens. The Tennessee secretary of state sent out letters to some voters saying they needed to provide proof of citizenship, a move that is legally questionable at best and that voting rights advocates have said amounts to voter intimidation.

Some states have tried to require proof of citizenship or otherwise attempted to remove potential non-citizens from the rolls, resulting in legal battles and erroneously identifying thousands of qualified voters for potential removal.

The US supreme court has said that states can’t require proof of citizenship for federal elections. Arizona voters approved a law in 2004 to require such proof in order to vote there. But the top court ruled in 2013 that the state could only require it for state or local elections, setting up a bifurcated system for voting proof in Arizona.

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