Skip to content

Noncitizen voting bill advances as Republicans continue messaging push

Republicans fuel their campaign narratives with committee and floor action on election proposals

Speaker Mike Johnson and Rep. Chip Roy hold a May 8 news conference on the House steps to unveil voting legislation they dubbed the SAVE Act. The bill saw committee action this week.
Speaker Mike Johnson and Rep. Chip Roy hold a May 8 news conference on the House steps to unveil voting legislation they dubbed the SAVE Act. The bill saw committee action this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House Administration Committee advanced a pair of messaging bills Thursday along party lines that Republicans said would curb foreign interference in U.S. elections and would prevent noncitizens from voting in federal elections — something federal law already forbids.  

Chairman Bryan Steil argued that the legislation was necessary to restore Americans’ shaken faith in the validity of federal vote counts.  

“When Americans are more confident that our elections are secure, they’re more likely to participate,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “As chairman of this committee, my focus is on increasing confidence and participation in our elections.”  

Ranking member Joseph D. Morelle said Americans were confident in the security of the nation’s elections until Republicans, led by former President Donald Trump, started making false claims about the 2020 election. 

“Every one of my majority colleagues understands that this narrative will aggravate the perilous infection of election denialism that is spreading in the American civic body,” the New York Democrat said. 

Morelle said he agreed with Steil’s avowed goal of “increasing confidence and participation in our elections” but said the bills advanced Thursday didn’t accomplish either.  

Introduced by GOP Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, one of the bills would require voters to prove citizenship to register, with the aim of keeping noncitizens from voting in federal elections. While that is already illegal, some jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C., allow noncitizens to vote in local elections.  

Roy announced the measure, dubbed the SAVE Act, in a news conference on the Capitol steps two weeks ago alongside Speaker Mike Johnson and other House Republicans who led efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Despite no evidence that noncitizens were voting in federal elections in any more than a handful of isolated incidents, Johnson argued it was common nonetheless. “We all know, intuitively, that a lot of illegals are voting in federal elections,” he said. “But it’s not been something that is easily provable.”  

“This bill is a solution in search of a problem,” Morelle said at Thursday’s markup, warning it would unintentionally disenfranchise many eligible voters, like recently married women who changed their names.  

Instead, Morelle proposed an amendment in the nature of a substitute that would completely replace the text with a Democratic proposal to overhaul election administration. At the time, Morelle was the only Democrat in the room and thus was the only vote in favor of the amendment.  

Introduced by Steil earlier this month, the other bill marked up Thursday would close loopholes that allow foreign nationals to get around a ban on contributing to campaigns. Steil also said it would strengthen donor privacy protections.   

Morelle similarly proposed replacing the text of Steil’s bill with his party’s own comprehensive campaign finance overhaul, to no avail.  

He also proposed a separate amendment to extend Steil’s bill to cover foreign efforts to influence judicial nominations. While Steil voted against that amendment, which was not adopted, he expressed an interest in working with Morelle on the issue.  

Thursday’s Administration Committee action came amid a series of messaging moves by Republicans. On Tuesday and Wednesday, GOP Sens. Roger Marshall of Kansas and Mike Lee of Utah, respectively, sought unanimous consent to discharge a bill to block D.C. from allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections and a bill similar to Roy’s. Democrats blocked both.  

Another measure to stop noncitizens from voting in local D.C. elections passed on the House floor Thursday.  

The panel had originally been slated to consider three other GOP-sponsored bills — a bill that would prevent election officials from hiring noncitizens to administer elections, a bill that would prevent states that allow ballot harvesting from receiving federal election administration funds and a bill that would require state election officials to track the names and addresses of inactive voter registrants — but they were pulled from the agenda just before the meeting.

Victor Feldman contributed to this report.   

Recent Stories

At Aspen conference, a call to prioritize stopping gun violence

Appeals court rules preventive care task force unconstitutional

Key players return to Congressional Softball Game, this time at the microphone

Bannon asks Supreme Court to keep him out of prison

Her family saw the horrors of the Holocaust. Now Rep. Becca Balint seeks to ‘hold this space’

Supreme Court clarifies when a gun law is constitutional