Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 260-162 to pass H.J.Res.24 to halt a dangerous election proposal that threatens U.S. citizen voting rights. The dangerous proposal is D.C. Bill 24.300, which would dramatically redefine who can vote in the nation’s capital and cost $2 billion to implement. The majority of the House appropriately disapproved of these changes in order to protect American voting power from dilution, relieve burdens on taxpayers, and refocus D.C. on addressing its failures in election integrity.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez opposed the House resolution, making the hyperbolic claim that it is “expanding in the history of disenfranchisement that goes all the way back to the legacy of slavery.” She falsely claimed that the House resolution would be “denying that right to vote to an overwhelmingly Black city.” But her claim is wrong, and the facts about the bill actually demonstrate the opposite: the minorities who are U.S. citizens born and raised in D.C., including the descendants of slaves, will have their votes diluted if D.C.’s non-citizen voting bill becomes law.
D.C. Bill 24.300 would lower the qualifications for voting to only a mere 1-month of residency. D.C. would discard current requirements of U.S. citizenship, current legal immigration status, or future legal authorization to reside in the U.S. These changes would apply starting in 2024 for multiple elections: D.C. mayor, city councilmember or chairman, attorney general, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, State Board of Education, as well as on initiatives, referendum, recalls, and changes to the D.C. charter.
Changing the qualifications for who can vote has an impact on voters who already meet the qualifications. The D.C. council’s Racial Equity Impact Assessment listed the benefits of the bill as providing non-citizens a “sense of purpose,” “building networks,” and a way to formally “express” their views. But what about the impact of this election change on existing voters—the people that the D.C. City Council members are supposed to currently represent—and the assessment on how it impacts American voters?
Reducing the qualification for voting from U.S. citizenship to a mere one-month residency means the voting power of U.S. citizens is diluted by a new electorate who all pledge allegiance to a different country, and broke U.S. immigration law to reside in D.C. We shouldn’t reward lawbreakers with a new power to change the law. D.C. estimates they would add to their voter rolls at least 21,000 who are illegally present in D.C.! Because those in the country illegally don’t have immigration papers, the assessment notes, “it is hard to know exactly how many people identify as non-citizen residents.” The Racial Equity Impact Assessment failed to assess the costs of illegal immigration. A Federation for American Immigration Reform report found that illegal immigration in 2017 cost D.C. a total of $282.4 million, by calculating the services and benefits used, including schools, law enforcement, health care, and public assistance. D.C. Bill 24.300 only will incentivize more illegal immigration.
In addition, temporary visitors to the U.S. would be able to vote under D.C. Bill 24.300. This includes people scheduled to leave after a certain date because their immigration status is temporary, as well as those anyone who just visits the nation’s capital for a month. That minimal qualification to vote can be manipulated by those who are diametrically opposed to the American way of life, because they will have an easy way to influence U.S. elections and pick leaders who share allegiances to foreign powers over the U.S. And those who plan to leave the United States will be granted power over the lives of Americans for years after they leave. Our government has its legitimacy because of the consent of the governed shown at the ballot box. But do visitors like a member of the foreign press or a tourist really share the same interest in a place they visited for a month, as those who were born, raised, and lived in the District of Columbia all their life? Many people come to the nation’s capital from across the globe and are welcomed as visitors, but it does not mean they also should be voters.
Besides the cost to representative government, the financial burden of the bill is money D.C. doesn’t have. The D.C. Fiscal Impact Statement reported costs over $3 million, and the current D.C. budget “[f]unds are not sufficient.” To implement D.C. Bill 24.300, D.C. needs to change voter registration applications, voter registration cards, voter rolls, and ballot machine systems. Notably, D.C.’s plan also includes an optional expenditure of $721,000 for outreach to non-citizen voters to encourage them to vote. So if D.C. can’t afford to pay for this bill from their own D.C. coffers, who foots the bill? It’s likely D.C. will again demand a bailout from the rest of the taxpayers around the country. D.C. Mayor Bowser requested a $10 million bailout from the federal government after an uptick in illegal immigration to D.C. just last year.
What really needs to change in D.C. is not the definition of voter; it’s how the elections system treats its current voters. D.C. should focus on fixing its current election system rather than experimenting with new changes. D.C. already has a history of incompetence in running elections, and as recent elections show, its track record is getting worse. In 2016, the D.C. Auditor reported that the D.C. Elections Board failed to follow federal and local laws requiring voter registry updates, leaving rampant inaccuracies, including dead people and voters with birthdates in the 1800s, on the voter rolls. Unfortunately, this mismanagement has only continued. Last year, the interstate voter rolls sharing database group ERIC (Election Registration Information Center) after issuing multiple notices and probation letters, warned D.C. that inaccuracies could kick them out of ERIC entirely. Because of its poor voter roll management, D.C. has a much higher rate of undeliverable mail than the 1.4% national average. D.C.’s undeliverablerate was 11% in 2020 and increased to 17% in 2022. And even when the election officials had a deliverable voter address, they sent the wrong ballots. In 2022, officials sent 574 voters ballots for the wrong neighborhood advisory commission within D.C. A new election system and all the changes will only compound the existing systemic problems.
DC Bill 24.300 is backwards; instead of diluting citizen voting power, we should retain the privilege of voting for those who chose to go through the naturalization process to obtain the great privilege of being an American along with those who are born and bred Americans who treasure their voting rights. H.J.Res.24 will retain U.S. citizen voting power, stop irresponsible use of taxpayer funds, and focus election planning on restoring confidence in elections that has been lost in D.C. A vote for H.J.Res.24 is good for American voting rights of all races in D.C. and improves voter confidence across the country.