Judge Tosses Challenge, Upholds Law Allowing ‘Noncitizens’ To Vote In DC

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Authored by Caden Pearson via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

(Drew Angerer /Getty Images)

A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit challenging a District of Columbia law allowing “noncitizen residents” to vote in local elections.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an appointee of President Barack Obama, found that a group of seven citizen plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the legislation.

Their lawsuit against the D.C. Board of Elections, filed on March 14, aimed to block the 2022 law passed by the Council of the District of Columbia.

They argued that “noncitizens” do not have a fundamental right to vote in the United States and that allowing them to cast ballots and hold office in the District of Columbia dilutes the votes of U.S. citizens.

“It follows from our national independence that United States citizens have a right to govern, and be governed by, themselves. The constitutional right to citizen self-government, moreover, has been recognized in repeated holdings of the Supreme Court of the United States,” their complaint reads.

“Nor does any noncitizen have a constitutional right to govern the United States,” the complaint adds.

The group argued that the Supreme Court has recognized and protected these rights against infringement in “multiple precedents.”

The group, in their complaint, argued that vote dilution caused by expanding the franchise to illegal immigrants has been analyzed under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment “on the ground that they discriminate against an identifiable group by harming that group while benefitting another.”

And while the complaint noted that the 14th Amendment only applies to the states, they contended that the 5th Amendment due process clause grants residents of the District of Columbia the same equal protection right.

No Standing

However, in an opinion issued Thursday, Judge Jackson determined that the seven plaintiffs failed to demonstrate “that they have personally been subjected to any sort of disadvantage as individual voters by virtue of the fact that noncitizens are permitted to vote, too.”

“They may object as a matter of policy to the fact that immigrants get to vote at all, but their votes will not receive less weight or be treated differently than noncitizens’ votes,” the judge wrote.

They are not losing representation in any legislative body; nor have citizens as a group been discriminatorily gerrymandered, ‘packed,’ or ‘cracked’ to divide, concentrate, or devalue their votes,” she continued.

The judge concluded: “At bottom, they are simply raising a generalized grievance which is insufficient to confer standing.”

The Epoch Times contacted the D.C. Board of Elections for comment.

‘A Direct Attack on American Self-Government’

The Epoch Times contacted the D.C.-based Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), which represented the plaintiffs, for comment.

In a statement announcing the lawsuit, Christopher Hajec, IRLI’s director of litigation, said the law “is a direct attack on American self-government.”

“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,” he said.

The IRLI’s executive director, Dale Wilcox, said in a statement on March 14 that when the voting power of citizens is eroded, “our nation begins to lose its independence.”

“If laws like this are not struck down, next there will be calls in many states to allow aliens to vote in statewide and even federal elections,” he added.

Noncitizen Voting Act

The law in question, known as the Noncitizen Voting Act, removed the prior citizenship requirement for voting in municipal elections, allowing all residents over 18 who have lived in the district for 30 days, regardless of immigration status, to vote in local elections only.

Those who qualify can vote in district races for mayor, council, attorney general, and advisory neighborhood commissioners. They can also vote on local initiatives, referenda, recalls, or charter amendment measures.

Additionally, in combination with other laws, the Noncitizen Voting Act permits illegal immigrants to serve as D.C. mayor, to serve on the D.C. Council, and to serve on the D.C. Board of Elections.

According to a court filing, at a meeting of the D.C. Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety on Sept. 27, 2022, Council Member Charles Allen, speaking in support of the legislation, said, “Our noncitizen neighbors, many of whom have lived, worked, and raised a family in the District for decades deserve the opportunity to have a stake in their government and determine their own leaders just as we all do.”

The Epoch Times contacted Mr. Allen for further comment.

Congress must review legislation passed by the D.C. Council; however, efforts to overturn the law through legislative means ultimately stalled in the U.S. Senate.

After the U.S. House passed a resolution disapproving of the act on Feb. 9, 2023, the Senate failed to pass a resolution against the act within the prescribed time frame.

This prompted the group of seven citizens to bring their lawsuit.

The lawsuit argued that it violates the 5th Amendment guarantees of due process and equal protection for citizens. The lawsuit also alleged that the law violates “the constitutional right of citizen self-government” by allowing “noncitizens to hold public office,” according to a court filing.

 

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