Law allowing noncitizens to vote in DC elections survives Congress

Law allowing noncitizens to vote in DC elections survives Congress

Posted For: Layla Godey

by Cami Mondeaux

A law passed by the Council of the District of Columbia allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections has survived a challenge in Congress, paving the way for the legislation to take effect next fall.

Republicans sought to block the law earlier this year, introducing resolutions in both the House and Senate that triggered a mechanism requiring congressional approval before the bill could take effect. The House managed to pass the resolution, but the Senate failed to bring it up for a vote before the 30-day deadline on Wednesday

“Despite House Republican attempts to interfere, the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act became law,” said Councilwoman Brianne Nadeau, who authored the bill, in a statement. “Our neighbors, who pay taxes, attend our schools, and contribute to the vibrancy of our communities, will now also have a say in who represents them in our local government,”

District lawmakers passed a bill in October that would allow noncitizens to vote in local elections, following the lead of a handful of small towns in Maryland, such as Hyattsville and Takoma Park, that already have similar laws in place. Although the D.C. Council overwhelmingly approved the bill, its passage was still left in the hands of Congress due to the district’s lack of statehood.

Under the Home Rule Act, Washington is permitted to operate as an independent city government. The only caveat is that all laws are subject to congressional approval before being enacted, occasionally setting up showdowns between Congress and local lawmakers.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Rep. James Comer (R-KY) introduced joint legislation in January to repeal the law, arguing the provision was an “insult to every voter in America.”

Although the law has survived congressional review, the legislation still faces legal opposition. One group, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, filed a lawsuit against the bill, arguing it violates a Supreme Court ruling that says voting is “reserved” for citizens.

The lawsuit marks the latest pushback against local legislation in the district just one week after the Senate voted to overturn the city’s rewritten criminal code — marking the first time in 30 years Congress has repealed a law passed by the D.C. Council. Since then, House Republicans have introduced another resolution targeting recent reforms to the city’s police department and justice system.

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