Hard as it is to believe, the mayor of Washington, DC, could soon be elected with votes cast by illegal immigrants or Chinese embassy staff. Last month, the DC City Council passed a bill to extend the right to vote in local elections to every adult with 30 days of residency. Mayor Muriel Bowser neither signed nor vetoed it, so the bill officially passed Monday without her signature.
Some jurisdictions have moved to allowing non-citizens to vote at local races, but the DC plan stands out for how it follows progressive ideas to a bizarre outcome. New York City passed a non-citizen voting law that a court this year ruled violated the state constitution. But that proposal required at least non-citizen voters to have a US work permit. No such restriction appears in DC law, which means illegal aliens and overseas college students can vote, and that’s not all.
“This measure does not prevent staff at embassies of governments openly hostile to the United States from casting ballots,” the Washington Post reported. A leftist New Republic writer agreed: “A Russian diplomat could spend his entire life in Moscow or St. Petersburg, take a job as cultural attaché at the Russian Embassy in DC in August 2024, and move into his new apartment in September , and cast a vote in the DC municipal elections in November.”
It reads like a bad parody of progressive decadence. Try to imagine American diplomatic personnel showing up to cast ballots for the mayor of Beijing or Moscow. In addition, the usual objections to non-citizen elections apply. It weakens the incentive to naturalize. Only US citizens can vote in federal elections, so including non-citizens in local elections would force election officials to maintain two voter rolls and two sets of ballots. It calls for a fiasco.
Those arguments failed to convince the DC City Council, which passed the bill 12-1 on the first reading. Because the district is a federal enclave, the council’s record is subject to review by Congress, and the bill now goes to Capitol Hill. The legislature has 30 legislature days to object by means of a joint decision.
Republican Sens. Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz have announced they will seek to block the non-citizen voting proposal. Will the Democrats stand in the way of this attempt? Let’s look at the appeal.
Maybe this is also a moment to think bigger. Georgian Foreign Minister Brad Raffensperger has “proposed a constitutional amendment, a US constitutional amendment that only American citizens can vote in our elections.” A 2024 presidential candidate who accepts this call could find a receptive public.
As for DC, if passage of this bill reflects the rest of its governance with little dissent, Congress may be overdue to consider some deep reforms of how America’s capital is run.
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