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GOP State Legislators Join National Republicans to Undermine American Democracy By Putting Election Denial Conspiracies on the November Ballot

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Several state legislatures are entertaining baseless election denial conspiracies, adding redundant rules against non-citizen voting to the November ballot. Dressed as democracy protections, these efforts instead seek to create a boogeyman around a problem that doesn’t exist. After a decade and millions of dollars spent searching for a problem, there has been no evidence of non-citizens influencing elections with fraudulent votes.      

Noncitizen voting in federal elections is already illegal and “vanishingly rare.” Still, you wouldn’t know that from the hysterics of top Republicans, including convicted felon Donald Trump and Speaker Mike Johnson, who are pushing conspiracy-fueled federal legislation purporting to tackle this non-existent issue. 

While it is a deeply unserious and time-wasting endeavor, it’s also a dangerous one because the lie that non-citizens are voting in federal elections is part of a larger strategy that uses immigrants to sow distrust in our electoral process and sets the stage for another January 6 coup attempt. Trump, Johnson, and other Republicans have been making this push a central part of the 2024 campaign as they look to establish the “we win or you cheated” for their supporters. 

A similar cast of characters (those not currently in jail) that unsuccessfully sought to overturn the 2020 election results is setting up for a second attempt if Trump once again is unable to pull out an electoral college win. Cleta Mitchell – whom the New York Times described as the “Lawyer Who Plotted to Overturn Trump Loss” –- is back as a conductor of anti-democratic conspiracies, for example. Organized around a Project 2025 spinoff, the “Only Citizens Vote Coalition” is a collection of anti-LGBT+, islamophobic, and anti-immigrant groups looking to elevate this deadly anti-democratic conspiracy.  As Heidi Beirich, founder of Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, told the Guardian, “All these groups that we’re talking about, are in some way connected to Project 2025.”

The white nationalist and virulent nativism driving this effort is glaring clear with Stephen Miller’s prominent role and the late white nationalist John Tanton’s network of organizations involvement in the “Only Citizens Vote Coalition.”  

Unfortunately, pernicious fiction about widespread noncitizen voting is also being pushed by Republicans in state legislatures, where noncitizens are also already prohibited from voting in statewide elections.

In Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, and Wisconsin, noncitizen voter amendments will appear on their respective ballots in November, where the GOP’s baseless panic on this nonexistent issue could now be enshrined in their state’s constitution by the voters. The futility of this made-up issue is perhaps best highlighted in North Carolina, where Republicans have filed a constitutional amendment despite the state constitution already explicitly stating that only citizens can vote. 

The initiative would amend “the constitution to say the same thing — just with slightly different wording,” WRAL reported. “But since it doesn’t appear the amendment would make any real changes, critics have said it’s nothing more than an effort to boost Republican voter turnout in this year’s presidential election by misleading people into thinking they need to take action to stop immigrants from voting.”

Sure, that’s one goal (though the GOP’s messaging strategy of demonizing immigrants during the 2022 midterms failed to deliver at the ballot box). But these efforts also have a far more sinister goal that strikes at the very heart of our democratic values by “opening the door to voting restrictions for eligible voters, delegitimizing the democratic process, and amplifying the white nationalist ‘replacement theory,’” as America’s Voice noted last month. “All of it fuels the possibility of real-world political violence and threats to American democracy.” 

Recall that Trump – who was just convicted by a jury of his peers on 34 felony counts related to election interference – has already said he’d pardon January 6 insurrectionists who sought to block certification of the rightful results of the 2020 presidential race. It’s a wink to would-be rioters that he’ll protect them, too, if they again rise to violently protest election results supposedly tainted by noncitizen voters (which, again, isn’t happening).

While West Virginia Republicans sought to put a noncitizen voter amendment on November’s ballot, the effort was successfully filibustered by a Democratic member of the House of Delegates, who pointed out the obvious to his colleagues. “I just don’t think it is necessary to change the Constitution for something that’s already in state code and isn’t taking place,” said Delegate Mike Pushkin. “It’s hard enough to get citizens to vote.” 

The Dominion Post reported that Delegate Pushkin “said that several times over in various ways, constantly checking his watch, and earning some chuckles around the chamber by doing it. Time ran out and it died.” Missouri Republicans advanced their effort despite the state’s Republican governor echoing the same sentiment as Puskin. Republican Gov. Mike Parson, in an interview with a Nexstar Media Group reporter earlier this month, also appeared to confirm that state law already bans non-citizens from voting,” The Kansas City Star reported.

Late last month, House Republicans marked up a bill that was nothing more than a figleaf to provide further legitimacy to election denial conspiracies, buoyed by despicable rhetoric from Trump and Johnson in recent months. If noncitizen voting in federal elections were truly widespread, as top Republicans allege, it would be easily provable, right? But in remarks last month, Johnson admitted he was operating off a bigoted hunch. “We all know, intuitively, that a lot of illegals are voting in federal elections,” he falsely said. “But it’s not been something that is easily provable. We don’t have that number.”

Luckily, the folks at the Brennan Center of Justice work based off of facts, not hunches, and they have some numbers. “In 2017, my colleagues Myrna Pérez (now a federal appeals court judge) and Douglas Keith conducted an exhaustive study of 42 jurisdictions in the 2016 general election,” Michael Waldman wrote in April. “They found that ‘election officials in those places, who oversaw the tabulation of 23.5 million votes, referred only an estimated 30 incidents of suspected noncitizen voting for further investigation or prosecution. In other words, even suspected — not proven — noncitizen votes accounted for just 0.0001 percent of the votes cast.’”

“Make no mistake, false and misleading information about our election system is being presented by Congress in an attempt to undermine voter confidence ahead of November,” the League of Women Voters said following the GOP House hearing last month. “This is just another attempt to spread misinformation about our democratic systems and to sow distrust in our elections.” Adav Noti, executive director of Campaign Legal Center, said “self-interested politicians are trying to undermine trust in the electoral process. Noncitizen voting simply does not occur at any meaningful level. It’s a fabrication being peddled, for personal and political gain, by leaders who should know better.”

RELATED: House GOP Marks Up Bill Peddling False Conspiracies, Feeding Attacks on American Democracy

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