Sat. May 18th, 2024

Trump and Mike Johnson zero in on noncitizen voting. It’s already illegal and very rare.

By 37ci3 Apr13,2024

Former President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Mike Johnson drafted a new law to suppress noncitizen voting on Friday, even though the practice is already illegal and rarely occurs.

Johnson said House Republicans would introduce a bill requiring documentary proof of citizenship to register to vote, speaking alongside Trump at Mar-a-Lago, seeking to fend off threats from his right wing.

“It seems like common sense, I’m sure we’d all agree, that we want US citizens to vote only in US elections,” Johnson said, falsely suggesting that “so many people” registered to vote when they received welfare.

Although several municipalities in Washington, California, Maryland, and Vermont allow noncitizens to vote in local elections, it is now a crime to register or vote as a noncitizen in all state and federal elections.

And very few people break these laws.

“This is a crime where not only are the consequences very high, but the payoff is very low — you don’t get millions of dollars, it’s not robbing a bank, you can vote,” said attorney Sean Morales-Doyle at the Brennan Justice Center. “But what makes it somewhat unique is that committing this crime actually requires the creation of a state record of your crime.”

Registering to vote and casting a ballot leaves a paper trail that elected officials are required by law to review regularly. Some records are also publicly available.

“It’s very easy to get caught and you will get caught,” Morales-Doyle said.

    Donald Trump speaks as House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., listens
Donald Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., during a press conference at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Friday, April 12, 2024. Wilfredo Lee / AP

The consequences are also far-reaching: non-citizens can face imprisonment, fines or deportation for voting illegally. According to the Brennan Center, registering to vote alone can result in a five-year prison sentence.

On the other hand, Morales-Doyle said, requiring documentary proof of citizenship could disenfranchise millions of Americans who don’t have access to passports or birth certificates.

Several states have tried to require documentary proof of citizenship in the past, but federal law currently prohibits it in federal elections. Arizona requires this for single state elections.

Many have examined noncitizen voting and found little evidence of it. The Brennan Center just found 30 suspicious non-citizen votes among 23.5 million votes in 2016, suggesting that suspected noncitizen votes accounted for 0.0001% of the votes cast. Despite claiming that 3 million undocumented immigrants voted in 2016, Trump’s own election integrity commission collapsed without revealing evidence of voter fraud.

But Johnson and Trump have long made baseless claims about election integrity. Johnson has repeatedly promoted conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and its rigging of voting machines, and he has recruited Republicans to back the claim that he wants to overturn states Trump lost.

For Trump, however, the proposal combines two of his favorite issues: immigration and voter fraud.

“It’s a story that, if you’re inclined to dislike immigrants, is true in the first place,” said Justin Levitt, a former Democratic adviser to Biden and an expert on electoral politics. “I think it helped him stay politically strong, if not more true.”

When noncitizens do vote, it’s usually a misunderstanding or a mistake, Levitt said. He said he remembers a case where California residents received citizenship and immediately left their citizenship interviews to register to vote. However, they had not been officially sworn in as citizens and were therefore not yet eligible.

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By 37ci3

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