Washington DC law allowing noncitizens to vote in elections challenged by lawsuit

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A conservative legal group and a former Republican candidate for D.C. mayor on Tuesday filed a lawsuit to challenge a controversial new law that would allow noncitizens – including illegal immigrants and foreign embassy staff members – to vote in municipal elections.

The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) and Stacia Hall – the GOP candidate for mayor in 2022 – along with a number of other U.S. citizen voters filed the complaint alleging that the new law is unconstitutional and contravenes the right for citizens to self-government.

The Local Resident Voting Rights Act, passed in October and says that if a noncitizen is otherwise qualified to vote, they can do so in local elections so long as they have resided in Washington, D.C., for at least 30 days.

The bill has sparked considerable controversy, including an effort in Congress to overturn it. The lawsuit filed Tuesday claims that the law ‘dilutes the vote of every U.S. citizen voter in the District.’ 

‘Because it does so, the D.C. Noncitizen Voting Act is subject to review under both the equal protection and the substantive due process components of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,’ it argues.

The lawsuit argues that the act ‘violates the constitutional right of citizens to govern, and be governed by, themselves, and should be struck down on that basis.’

‘This law—and others like it that are popping up around the country—is a direct attack on American self-government,’ Christopher Hajec, IRLI’s director of litigation, said in a statement. ‘The proponents of this law claim it gives citizens of foreign nations a ‘voice’ in the affairs of the city they reside in. But they already have a voice, protected by the First Amendment. They are free to speak, write, attend council meetings, and so on. This law doesn’t just give foreign citizens a voice in our country’s affairs, it gives them voting power that politicians inevitably will have to respond to. That transfer of power flies in the face of the clear right of the American people to govern themselves.’

The D.C. Council has defended the legislation, and recently called on congressional leaders not to intervene in overturning two controversial laws – including the voting bill.

The councilmembers claimed the acts are ‘responsible enactments’ and the ‘bills were approved after public hearings, extensive discussion, and thorough consideration by the Council of the District of Columbia.’

‘The District of Columbia has the right to self-govern as granted to us under the Home Rule Act,’ the letter reads. ‘Any changes or amendments to the District’s local laws should be done by the elected representatives of the District of Columbia.’

New York City had passed a similar bill that also had a 30-day requirement in December 2021. That bill quickly faced a legal challenge, and in June a New York judge ruled that it was illegal, violating the state’s constitution.

Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer and Houston Keene contributed to this report.

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