U.S. House panel votes to advance election bills targeting noncitizens, foreign money

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Signage at an early voting center on Sept. 23, 2016, in Minneapolis. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House Administration Committee voted along party lines Thursday to advance two election-related bills to the House floor.

The Republican-led committee approved H.R. 8281, a bill to bar noncitizens from voting in federal elections, something that is rare and already illegal, and H.R. 8399, which would restrict the contributions of foreign nationals in political campaigns. The votes on both were 6-1.

The votes came as Republicans are making immigration a core campaign theme for the November elections.

“Noncitizen voting in our elections must be stopped,” committee Chair Bryan Steil, a Wisconsin Republican, said in his opening statement.

The top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Joe Morelle of New York, said the bills would undermine Americans’ confidence in U.S. elections.

“This narrative will aggravate the perilous infection of election denialism that is spreading in the American civic body,” Morelle said.

The noncitizen voting bill the committee voted on Thursday would amend the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to require proof of citizenship to vote in federal elections, and would allow states to check citizenship through federal databases with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration.

“We’re working to increase the integrity of our elections, block noncitizens from voting in our elections,” Steil said.

Morelle said the bill would disenfranchise eligible voters by requiring a birth certificate or passport to register to vote.

“This bill is unreasonably restrictive,” he said.

Morelle also objected to the bill dealing with foreign donations in political campaigns.

“This does nothing to get foreign money out of our politics,” he said.

He argued that some of the provisions would “kneecap” the Federal Election Commission, by curtailing its enforcement authority.

Steil pointed to Washington, D.C., which allows noncitizens to vote in local elections, and said that Congress cannot allow D.C.’s “voting law to spread across the United States.”

A handful of cities and towns allow noncitizens to vote in local elections, a trend that has sparked a national conservative rallying cry about noncitizens voting.

The House voted 262-143 Thursday to pass H.R.192, which would overturn the D.C. law.

The bill is unlikely to see a vote in the Senate, where Democrats have a slim majority.

Under the Constitution, Congress has authority to overturn local D.C. laws.

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