Noncitizen Voting: The Disenfranchisement of Black Americans and Naturalized Citizens
Written Testimony/ U.S. House Committee on Administration
by the Honorable J. Kenneth Blackwell, America First Policy Institute
May 24, 2023
Chairwoman Lee, Ranking Member Sewell, and distinguished members of this Subcommittee, thank you for theopportunity to provide this testimony today on a matter of utmost importance: why noncitizens should not be allowed to vote in any American elections. I serve as the Chair of the Center for Election Integrity at the America First Policy Institute. Besides leading inthe election integrity arena, I served as Secretary of State of the great state of Ohio and as a United States Ambassador. I am grateful every day for being able to serve the country that I love. We want elections in which it is easy to vote, but hard to cheat. That starts with one principle – common sense. We say your most sacred duty as a citizen of this country is your right to vote, because not all citizens across the world have that right. Why would we dilute that, and freely give it to people who are not citizens of our country? To me, upholding the principles of our democracy and preserving the integrity of our electoral process is what makes America great. And as a Black American who was personally involved growing up with ensuring that all American citizens are granted their God-given rights, it is important that we recognize and honor the hard-fought battles of Black Americans to secure our own right to vote. From the era of Reconstruction to the monumental Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, Black Americans have valiantly struggled to secure equal citizenship and the right to vote. Their perseverance and sacrifices must not be undermined or diluted by allowing noncitizens to participate in our electoral process. The 15th Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Civil Rights movement in our country represent a substantial chapter inour history, depicting the arduous struggle that Black Americans faced to earn and exercise their right to vote. The victory for equal citizenship and suffrage was a triumph for democracy and equality. It stands as a testament to the indomitable spirit and resilience of a community that fought tirelessly against discrimination. Regrettably, in cities across America today, we witness the dilution of Black Americans' voting power due to the inclusion of foreign nationals in our electoral system. Municipalities such as New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and various others have enacted laws allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections. This undermines the very value of American citizenship and deeply disrespects the struggles endured by BlackAmericans to have their voices heard at the ballot box for well over a century. Granting foreign nationals the rightto vote erodes the voting power of Black American citizens residing in these cities. It is essential to emphasize that this insult is not solely directed towards Black Americans. It extends to those who arrived in this country legally and underwent the complex and often painstaking bureaucratic process to become United States citizens. After investing considerable effort and time, granting noncitizens the same votingrights completely devalues these American citizens’ achievements. Expanding the right to vote to foreigners bestows voting rights upon individuals who may have no personal stake in shaping the future of our nation. Part of being a citizen is caring about leaving our country in a better place forour children and our grandchildren - the next generation. Foreigners residing in America do not share the samecollective investment in our nation's future, safety, or security. Let us look at a couple of examples. The local government in Washington, D.C., where over 45% of the people are Black, passed a bill that would allow anyone, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, to vote in local elections if they have lived in the city for just 30 days. This proposed measure was considered extreme, so extreme the typically liberal Washington Post editorial boardhas described it as "radical" as an estimated 50,000 noncitizen residents, including those residing in the city illegally, would have the freedom to cast ballots in local elections. 2
However, the implications go beyond that. There was no provision in the D.C. measure to prevent individuals working at embassies of governments openly hostile to the United States or foreign students studying abroad inWashington for a semester from casting ballots in American elections.
In New York City, which has the largest Black community in the nation according to the 2020
U.S. Census, the Public Interest Legal Foundation, an organization on whose board I serve, filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of four Black New York City voters. The aim was to challenge the city's legislation permitting foreign citizens to vote, as it violated the 15th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act. It is imperative to note that in America, no election laws should be racially motivated to favor any particular group.
Nationally, consider that over 5 million illegal immigrants have entered the United States in just the two years since President Joe Biden was elected. Allowing them to vote in local elections creates a powerful perverse incentivize for politicians to excuse, or even demand, an ongoing humanitarian crisis on the border so long as itfeeds a steady stream of transient voters willing to back those politicians’ agenda. And, while proponents of noncitizen voting like to point out that it is illegal for any noncitizen to vote in federal elections, we see every day in our city councils and school boards that these local elections are just as relevant, if not more, to the life of everyday American citizens than presidential or Congressional elections.
We must fervently combat these noncitizen voting laws wherever they are being considered and safeguard the hard-earned rights of Black Americans and all legal United States citizens, both those born here and those who legally immigrated here, to have their voices heard through our elections. We cannot permit the concept ofcitizenship to lose its significance. Black Americans have fought too long and too hard for their citizenship and the right to vote, and it would be a grave injustice to witness these achievements diminished.
I implore this esteemed committee and all members of Congress to stand firmly against any legislation thatwould grant voting rights to noncitizens. Let us honor the legacy of the Civil Rights movement and thesacrifices of Black Americans by safeguarding the integrity of our democracy.
The Honorable J. Kenneth Blackwell Chair, Center for Election Integrity America First Policy Institute
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