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House Passes Measuring Requiring Proof of Citizenship for Voter Registration

 July 11, 2024

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Safeguard American Voter Eligibility (SAVE) Act on Wednesday, intensifying debates over non-citizen participation in federal elections.

The measure, opposed by top Democrats and the White House, requires proof of US citizenship when registering to vote, as the New York Post reports.

SAVE Act Passes Amid Contentious Debate

On Wednesday, the House passed the SAVE Act with a vote count of 216 Republicans and five Democrats in favor, while 198 Democrats opposed the bill. Among the Democrats who crossed party lines were Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, Jared Golden of Maine, Don Davis of North Carolina, and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington.

House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana expressed his strong support for the bill, making statements that underscored the necessity of safeguarding American elections from illegal voting practices. Conversely, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York and the White House voiced their staunch opposition to the measure.

The White House escalated its stance against the bill by issuing a veto threat on Monday, arguing that the bill would not enhance election security but instead create hurdles for eligible Americans attempting to register to vote.

The Purpose and Implications of the SAVE Act

The SAVE Act aims to prevent non-citizens from participating in federal elections, addressing claims that illegal voting by non-citizens, although already a federal crime, is still occurring. The bill endeavors to clean up voter rolls through the use of federal databases, a move intended to bolster the integrity of federal elections.

Proponents of the bill, such as Johnson, assert that the presence of millions of non-citizens in the country poses a significant risk to the sanctity of the ballot box, positing that even a small fraction of illegal votes could influence election outcomes.

In support of the bill, Johnson's office released a white paper urging Congress to pass the legislation. The paper highlighted several state and federal investigations indicating instances of non-citizens voting or attempting to vote.

Divergent Views on Voter Suppression and Fraud

The SAVE Act has sparked a fierce debate between political factions. Johnson has repeatedly criticized opposition from Democrats, accusing them of wanting to allow illegal aliens to vote in American elections. He cited an academic study referenced in the bill, which suggests that non-citizen voter participation could potentially impact election results.

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Jeffries condemned the bill, labeling it as an "extreme MAGA Republican voter suppression bill." The White House Office of Management and Budget echoed this sentiment, emphasizing that there are already stringent legal penalties in place for non-citizens who vote in federal elections.

Jeffries and others argue that the bill's requirements could disenfranchise eligible voters by making the voter registration process more cumbersome, increasing the risk of eligible voters being purged from the rolls.

Competing Narratives and Legislative Battles

Some left-of-center groups have dismissed concerns about non-citizen voting as unfounded, but conservatives remain vigilant, pointing to Democratic efforts in various cities and states to extend voting rights to non-citizens in local elections. Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, a staunch supporter of the bill, dismissed claims of disenfranchisement as "hogwash."

Roy pointed to several cities, such as Oakland and San Francisco, where local policies are perceived to be paving the way for non-citizens to participate in state and local elections. He warned that these measures could inadvertently affect federal election integrity.

In illustrating the potential scale of the issue, Johnson remarked that even if a mere one out of 100 non-citizens voted, it could translate to hundreds of thousands of votes—votes that might decisively influence critical election outcomes.

Historical Context and Federal Legislation

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 mandates that voter registration forms be provided alongside applications for driver's licenses and federal benefits. This context enhances the debate on how citizenship status should be verified during the registration process.

Some critics point to the Biden administration's policies that have expanded access to benefits for non-citizens, arguing that such moves indirectly facilitate illegal voting. Notably, 19 states and Washington, D.C., currently allow non-citizens to receive driver's licenses, amplifying concerns about ensuring only eligible Americans vote in federal elections.

Opponents of the SAVE Act argue that the proposed legislation would make voter registration unnecessarily difficult for eligible citizens. Additionally, they believe the bill could lead to wrongful disenfranchisement, contradicting democratic principles.

Conclusion and Future Directions

As debates continue to unfold, the passage of the SAVE Act marks a significant milestone in the ongoing discourse on election integrity and voter eligibility.

With a veto threat from the White House and sharp divisions among House members, the future of the bill remains uncertain. Addressing the complex interplay of voter suppression fears and fraud prevention efforts will likely be a defining issue in the upcoming legislative sessions.