Noncitizen voting ban measure falls short in Georgia Senate

Citizen Voting
FILE - In this Jan. 11, 2021 file photo, Georgia State Sen. Butch Miller speaks on the legislative session's first day in Atlanta. Miller on Monday, Jan 24, 2022, failed to gain a required two-thirds majority to pass a proposed amendment that would change the state constitution to include a ban on voting by noncitizens that is already in state law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

The Georgia Senate on Monday rejected a plan to amend the state constitution to include a ban on voting by noncitizens that is already in state law.

Senate Resolution 363 won a 33-14 majority but fell short of the two-thirds majority of 38 needed for a constitutional amendment on a party-line vote, with Democrats opposing the measure and Republicans supporting it.

Republicans said the change is needed to clarify the constitution to reflect state law that says only citizens of the United States and residents of Georgia can vote.

“All we’re trying to do is take what’s in Georgia code and put it in the Georgia constitution,” said Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, a Gainesville Republican who sponsored the measure.

“One person voting who is not eligible to vote is one too many,” Miller said.

Democrats said they only want citizens to vote, but say the move is unnecessary political theater aimed at motivating Republican voters in an election year. Miller is running for lieutenant governor, seeking the Republican nomination against others including state Sen. Burt Jones of Jackson, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

“The intention of this legislation may be to try to incite a particular base in this state to gin up support for their own elections,” said Sen. Emanuel Jones, a Decatur Democrat.

“A bunch of foolishness” is what Democratic Sen. Harold Jones II of Augusta called it.

Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has been campaigning in favor of the change, arguing the constitution needs more clarity and saying there would be broad bipartisan support for such a measure.

“None of y’all have said you don’t agree with it,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan, a Carrollton Republican, told Democrats on Monday. “None of y’all have said this is a bad idea.”

The proposal has been debated before in the General Assembly. It’s one of several pieces of legislation backed by Miller to appeal to conservatives.

Recently, New York City decided legal permanent residents could vote in city elections. That law is being challenged in court. Two Vermont cities and nine Maryland cities allow noncitizens to vote in local elections, while San Francisco allows noncitizens parents of students to vote in school board elections.

Such moves would currently be illegal under Georgia state law, but Miller said some Georgia Democrats have given “a wink and a nod” in favor of such a change. Republicans said they wanted to make it harder to change state law by putting the measure into the constitution.

“In order to obtain your citizenship, you have to pledge your allegiance, swear your loyalty to the United States of America and shed your allegiance to your previous country,” said Republican Sen. Greg Dolezal of Cumming.

There are few allegations of voting in Georgia by people who are not American citizens. The State Election Board in 2021 fined a Gwinnett County woman $500, saying she was not a citizen and voted in 2012 and 2016.

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