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Inside the Battle to Keep Only Citizens Voting

Fairness advocates are working in 15 states to preserve American citizens’ exclusive right to vote—and that’s just the start of this new effort that’s showing a path to victory.

Voting booths in polling place
(DigitalVision/Getty Images)

Voter suppression is real—and it’s happening in blue states and ultra-“progressive” cities across America. Non-citizen voting is the left’s latest social justice craze, one that’s canceling out the constitutionally guaranteed votes of tens of thousands of American citizens, including naturalized immigrants who worked hard to lawfully obtain their citizenship.

Fortunately, there’s a cure.


I spoke with Paul Jacob, president of the Americans for Citizen Voting PAC, which is active across the nation to protect citizen voting rights by banning non-citizens from casting a ballot—including the illegal aliens pouring through our open borders.

“Americans should be very concerned about the threat of non-citizens voting in our elections, even in states where it’s not yet legal,” he commented via email. To date, the Left’s campaigns have focused on Democrat-controlled states like California and New York, but it’s only a matter of time before they turn to Republican states as well.

“Many on the Left clearly want non-citizens to vote,” Jacob explained. “After a Citizen Only Voting Amendment passed the Texas Senate 29–1 earlier this year, Democrats blocked it in the House. Every Democrat in Georgia voted against a similar amendment in the legislature this year. And in Vermont, Democrats overrode the Republican governor’s veto to award non-citizens the vote in three cities.

“Now is the time to make clear that only U.S. citizens should vote before liberal cities in other states start handing the franchise away to non-citizens,” Jacob says.

Status of non-citizen voting & citizen-only voting laws by state (as of April 2024). Image credit: Americans for Citizen Voting PAC

Non-citizen voting is virtually non-existent outside the United States, though some European Union (EU) countries allow other EU citizens to vote locally under strict residency conditions. For many American conservatives, however, it’s self-evident that only U.S. citizens should vote in U.S. elections—after all, isn’t that how we’ve always done it? 

The answer, of course, is yes—until the radicalized, post-Obama Democratic Party realized it needed millions of new voters to stay viable outside Manhattan and Hollywood. For the left, choosing between abandoning socialism or importing a new electorate was no choice at all. And, around 2015, they found just the loophole to exploit.

Congress and President Bill Clinton outlawed non-citizen voting in 1996 for federal elections, but ignored state and local elections as a non-issue (as it was at the time). All 50 state constitutions similarly mention U.S. citizenship with regard to voting, but just 11 explicitly say non-citizens cannot vote—and far-left activists have eagerly built their legal reasoning on that “oversight.”

Many conservatives are only now waking up to this reality. “That’s why we’re working in the other 39 states,” Jacob said. “But states controlled by Democrats have been very hostile to our efforts.” So Americans for Citizen Voting has concentrated its work in 15 states with a receptive Republican legislature or which allow ballot initiatives, such as Wisconsin and Iowa. 

Like every election “reform” proposed by Democratic lawmakers in the past decade, these initiatives originated not from politicians but from the legion of professional activist groups that have enormous (and enormously underappreciated) sway over what’s mainstream in the Democratic Party. That process began roughly a decade ago with gutting photo ID requirements in elections, hiding the existence of non-citizen voter fraud, and imposing automatic voter registration laws dramatically to expand the pool of registered Democratic voters—legal or otherwise. 

Collectively, each policy is designed to assist the left’s sophisticated ballot harvesting machine months before Election Day while naïve Republicans rely on voters to get themselves to the polls on the second Tuesday of November. 

The virus initially spread to California. San Francisco voters narrowly passed a 2016 initiative authorizing “non-citizen residents” with kids in public schools to vote in school board races; neighboring Oakland followed in 2022. Currently 16 cities in four states allow non-citizen voting, including by illegal aliens.

These aren’t hotly contested seats with politicians desperate for more voters. Nor does anyone expect non-citizen voters to be more than a tiny percentage of overall turnout—yet. But the left thinks generationally while the right too often thinks in terms of the next election. 

Notice the bigger project here: Legalizing voting in all elections nationwide for the record 51 million non-citizens living in the United States, illegal aliens included. That starts with quietly normalizing voting by unassimilated foreigners with no stake in our country’s future, blurring the lines between citizens and everyone else.

In 2022, the District of Columbia Council unanimously (with a single abstention) legalized non-citizen voting for all local elections to expand “democracy,” including voting foreign embassy staff. “So the Russian or Chinese ambassador can vote in D.C.,” Jacob noted. “I like to point out that if an invading army took and held the District of Columbia for 30 days, under this law those occupying soldiers would lawfully be able to vote in D.C. elections.”

When conservatives challenged the law for “dilut[ing] the vote of every U.S. citizen voter in the District,” Obama-nominated judge Amy Berman Jackson simply tossed the suit because the plaintiffs “lacked standing.”

If that sounds crazy, it’s the Democratic Party’s vision for voting in all states and, eventually, in federal races. What’s fringe today is mainstream tomorrow, and not by accident.

Don’t expect them to admit it, though. Leftists want to have it both ways: There’s no non-citizen voting going on, we’re told, and if there is, well, we should want more of that “democracy.” If that’s confusing to most Americans, all the better.

“Republicans aim to stop non-citizen voting in federal elections. It’s already illegal,” NPR sneered earlier this month, referring to a push by Donald Trump and Speaker Mike Johnson to require documented proof of citizenship when registering to vote anywhere in the country. But while the left mocks these “unfounded” and supposedly un-evidenced claims—relying on talking points from “dark money” fronts like the Arabella-spawned Voting Rights Lab—genuine experts have detailed how illegal aliens have been voting in elections for years.

Census Bureau data shows that roughly 2.2 million non-citizens voted illegally in the 2008 election, according to the reliably nonpartisan fact-checking website Just Facts. Later analysis showed that illegal votes by non-citizens netted Joe Biden tens of thousands of votes in 7 battleground states in 2020, more than enough to defeat Trump.

RealClearPolitics analyst Sean Trende has also demonstrated that larger numbers of non-citizens increase the probability that a district will elect a Democrat. A top Black Lives Matter group goes further, arguing that the “enfranchisement of...undocumented people” (i.e. illegal aliens) is key to its “vision for black lives.” (Figure that one out.)

Districts and states with lots of non-citizens, legal or otherwise, also pilfer representation from districts with few-to-no non-citizens. Recall that non-citizens are counted in the decennial census, which determines how many House seats each state gets as well as its votes in the Electoral College to determine the next president. 

Is that fair? Paul Jacob doesn’t think so.

“The fact that states like California and New York have sanctuary cities and are in effect encouraging non-citizens to come live there provides them with more representatives in Congress, and therefore greater representation,” he explained. He hopes the push for citizen-only voting will “spark more discussion on the way certain states are gaining additional political power through open border policies.”

This writer has traced well-funded lobbying campaigns by the Arabella “dark money” network to kill bills basing district maps on the number of eligible voters instead of the total population—all of them in red or purple states. When Trump simply tried to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, the left unleashed its potent army of lawyers to shut it down. Nancy Pelosi called the measure a cynical effort to “make America white again.” 

It worked. “America wins,” the government-funded Brookings Institute quickly cheered after the Trump administration gave up.

Yet the past decade should teach us that, even with an ocean of money, an army of lawyers, and a legion of battle-ready activists, Democrats only barely win elections in many parts of the country. In other words, the left needs that high-powered election machine just to eke out the barest victory in normal America—like the nail-biter that put Joe Biden in the White House in 2020.

Republicans, in contrast, have been fighting blindfolded with one hand tied behind the back. What happens when patriots get serious about building their own get-out-the-vote machine?

Polling is firmly on the conservatives’ side. Fully 75 percent of voters oppose non-citizen voting in their local elections—59 percent say “strongly”—compared with just 20 percent who support it—8 percent say “strongly”—and 69 percent of voters favor Congress’s actions to stop non-citizens voting in the District of Columbia, according to a mid-2023 survey.

It’s even higher in swing states, with 79 percent of voters in North Carolina and 80 percent in Georgia agreeing that “only U.S. citizens should vote in elections.”

So far, 6 states—Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Alabama, Louisiana, and North Dakota—have passed citizen-only voting amendments in recent years, and by thumping margins. 

The one to watch is blue Colorado, where voters approved a 2020 initiative 63–37 percent with a winning margin of 814,000 votes. Conservatives were unified in their messaging about enforcing the “original intent of the Colorado constitution,” while the Left lamely argued the measure would prohibit 17-year-olds from voting in primaries. 

It didn’t hurt that conservatives outspent their opponents for once, although the Colorado campaign only cost $1.4 million—a steal compared to the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars campaigns spent on ballot initiatives in 2020.

House Republicans are noticing, too, as Rep. H. Morgan Griffith of Virginia introduced a bill in mid-April (H.R. 4460) specifying that “no State should permit non-citizens to cast ballots in State or local elections.” 

Jacob is confident that the movement is catching fire. “Already in 2024,” he said, “2 million Republicans in the March primary voted to require proof of citizenship in order to vote. 96 percent voted in favor.

“And so far, four more states—Wisconsin, Iowa, Kentucky, and Idaho—have placed Citizen-Only Voting Amendments on the Nov. 5 ballot. We expect another four or five states to do so as well, including North Carolina.” 

If he’s right, we should toast “progressives” for creating their own worst enemy.