House Republicans launch attack on D.C. voting rights laws
“It’s a blessing for me to be able to participate,” says Antonia Diaz, who recently registered as a non-citizen voter in local elections. | DCist

WASHINGTON—Just two weeks after MAGA Republicans in the U.S. Congress urged Mayor Muriel Bowser and the District of Columbia Police to raid a student-led Palestine solidarity encampment, leading to 33 arrests with several pepper-sprayed, they’re now attacking D.C. residents on the issue of voting rights.

Chair of the Committee on House Administration, Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., sent a letter to the D.C. Board of Elections after receiving a mailer encouraging non-citizen voting. The mailer was related to voter registration for D.C. residents who are not U.S. citizens that were enfranchised by the passage of the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2022.

The Republican chairperson responded in chauvinist fashion by saying, “American elections are for American citizens only. Every American deserves to have confidence in their elections, and it does not instill confidence when we see our nation’s capital encourage non-citizen voting in local elections. I’m working to hold the D.C. Board of Elections accountable and stop non-citizen voting.”

The Wisconsin lawmaker seemed to contradict himself in his letter, though, by saying, “Despite the Act’s passage by the District of Columbia Council, federal law continues to prohibit non-citizens from voting in federal elections.”

The Act passed in D.C. specifically states that non-citizen residents cannot vote in federal elections, which is against the law. Stiel’s letter continues, with several anti-immigrant and xenophobic questions targeted toward the D.C. Board of Elections. The language of his letter shares similarities with that used in the D.C. Republican Party’s lawsuit aimed at preventing the bill from becoming law.

The House of Representatives is now trying to repeal the law in its entirety as part of its ongoing attack on democracy and Home Rule in the District of Columbia. H.R. 192, a law to prohibit individuals who are not citizens of the United States from voting in elections in the District of Columbia, is up for a vote on Thursday, May 23.

Like the recent passing of the D.C. CRIMES Act (D.C. Criminal Reforms to Immediately Make Everyone Safer Act), the MAGA Republican majority of the House wants to strip D.C. of its autonomy and right to govern itself.

Local organizations and coalitions, like #HandsOffDC, DC Vote, the ACLU, and the League of Women Voters, have been organizing residents to pack the committee hearings and urge congress members to vote against bills that have been attacking D.C. autonomy since the repeal of the Revised Criminal Code Act of 2021.

D.C. Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton called the passage of the D.C. CRIMES Act in the House “the biggest rollback of D.C. self-government in a generation.”

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Jamal Rich
Jamal Rich

Jamal Rich writes from Washington, D.C. where he is active with the Claudia Jones School for Political Education.