US House approves Trump-backed bill on non-citizen voting

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, fueled by Donald Trump’s false claims about election fraud, approved a bill on Wednesday that would ban non-citizens from registering to vote in federal elections, a rare practice that is already illegal.

Less than four months before Trump’s Nov. 5 election showdown with Democratic President Joe Biden, the House voted 221-198 to approval the measure, which is based on claims that people who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally could cast ballots in this year’s presidential and congressional elections.

The legislation now goes to the Democratic-led Senate, where it is likely to be dead on arrival.

Titled the Safeguard American Voter Eligibility Act, the bill would require those registering to vote to provide proof of U.S. citizenship and compel states to purge suspected non-citizens from their voter rolls.

It is already a felony offense for a non-citizen to vote in a federal election, and independent studies have shown that such things happen only rarely.

The bill is opposed by Democrats, who describe it as a voter suppression effort targeted at key Democratic constituencies with a Trump-inspired message calculated to undermine overall public confidence in the U.S. election system.

“This bill would do nothing to safeguard our elections,” the White House said in a statement this week. 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.”

Republicans have couched the bill in Trump-like apocalyptic rhetoric.

House Speaker Mike Johnson claimed in a floor speech ahead of the vote that failure to support the bill would “hand over our country to illegal aliens, cartel traffickers, and violent criminals and murderers.”

Trump, who favors the bill, continues to repeat false claims that the 2020 election was stolen through massive voter fraud.

Johnson, who relied on Trump’s support to hold off a bid to oust him from leadership by Republican hardliner Marjorie Taylor Greene, unveiled plans for the legislation during an April joint press conference with the former president in Florida.

Johnson and other Republicans have gone so far as to allege that Democrats are actively encouraging non-citizens to vote.

“For all the hysterical rhetoric … Republicans have one real purpose here: to continue to erode the confidence of Americans in our election system,” said Representative Joe Morelle, top Democrat on the House Administration Committee, which oversees election policy.

Johnson and other Republicans have cited data showing non-citizens are registered to vote in some states and point to municipalities, including New York City, Washington, D.C., and Montpelier, Vermont, that have allowed resident aliens to vote in some local elections.

Republicans also rely in part on a widely rejected 2014 study that claimed to show a level of noncitizen voting capable of swaying congressional and presidential elections. Trump used the study to support his claim that Democrat Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election because of illegal ballots cast by non-citizens.

“This is a scare tactic,” said Wendy Weiser, who directs the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “Non-citizens cannot vote in U.S. elections. There are multiple layers of protections in place, including it being a crime under federal and state law.”

A Brennan Center study examined 42 jurisdictions, accounting for 23.5 million votes in the 2016 presidential election, and found only 30 incidents of possible non-citizen voting, or 0.0001% of votes cast.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone, Christian Schmollinger and Aurora Ellis)


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