For The Record

Georgia Senate committee advances amendment to ban noncitizen voting

By: - January 13, 2022 3:13 pm

A Republican-sponsored resolution that would reinforce state law banning noncitizens from voting advanced through a Senate committee on Thursday. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder

Legislation that proposes a constitutional amendment barring noncitizens from voting cleared the Senate Ethics Committee Thursday, becoming the first voting-related measure to advance since the legislative session started Monday.

Senate Republicans moved forward Senate Resolution 363 with a 7-2 vote for the measure whose supporters say it would provide states with greater protection from legislators changing the law to allow noncitizens to have access to the ballot box.

However, the detractors claim there is no need to amend the constitution since state and federal laws already prohibit anyone who is not a U.S. citizen and a Georgia resident from voting. 

Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller, a 2022 candidate for lieutenant governor, said he is sponsoring the resolution to prevent situations like in New York City, where Republicans are suing to block the law that gives 800,000 legally documented noncitizens the right to vote in local elections as early as next year.

Noncitizens are also eligible to vote in local elections in 11 Maryland cities, two Vermont cities and for the school board in San Francisco.

Georgia could fall victim to this same approach,” the Gainesville Republican said in a statement. “I firmly believe Georgians, and only Georgians, should decide our elections. The amendment’s passage through committee (Thursday) is a step toward ensuring that is the case.”

Republican Sen. Butch Miller

The resolution removes the section of law that says every citizen has the right to vote and replaces it with language stating that only people who are U.S. citizens and Georgia residents can cast a ballot.

Although Republicans control both chambers, the measure faces an uphill battle since a constitutional amendment resolution requires a two-thirds majority to pass and the GOP doesn’t have that advantage in the Senate. Georgia voters would then get a chance to decide the issue at the ballot box.

Cindy Battles, director of policy and engagement for the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, said there are much more pressing issues for legislators to take up instead of stirring up concerns about illegal voting during an election year.

“Not only is this not necessary, it sends a message to Georgians, people like me who are a victim of the current housing crisis, about what your priorities are when we’re asking you during this legislative session to take care of Georgians,” Battles said at the Senate Ethics Committee meeting.

GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has called it a priority to get the referendum measure through the legislature this year.

“If critics really don’t want noncitizens to vote,then they should support this constitutional amendment,” Raffensperger said at a Tuesday press conference. “The only reason to oppose it then is if these individuals plan to bring noncitizen voting to Georgia in the future. America’s leaders should be chosen by American citizens.”

The noncitizens proposal is one of the voting-related changes that some high-ranking Republican lawmakers are advocating for in 2022, including a bill from Miller that would ban absentee drop boxes. 

The controversial voting overhaul passed by the Republicans last year is the subject of multiple federal lawsuits, which claim it disenfranchises Blacks and other marginalized groups.

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.