Alabama voters to decide in 2020 on citizen requirement for voting

On May 30, 2019, the Alabama Legislature gave final approval to Senate Bill 313, which would amend the Alabama Constitution to state that “only a citizen of the United States,” rather than “every citizen of the United States,” has the right to vote in Alabama (emphasis added).
 
Sen. Del Marsh (R-12) introduced the constitutional amendment as Senate Bill 313 (SB 313) during the 2019 legislative session. On May 8, 2019, the Alabama State Senate approved SB 313 in a vote of 27-0 with eight members (three Democrats and five Republicans) absent or not voting. On May 30, 2019, the state House passed the measure in a vote of 87-0 with 14 Democratic members abstaining and 3 members (two Democrats and one Republican) absent or not voting.
 
Joshua Jones of Citizen Voters, a group pushing for similar amendments across the nation, said, “Most people don’t realize cities around the country are already opening municipal elections to non-citizen voters. This constitutional amendment will ensure that trend never comes to Alabama. [The amendment’s sponsors] are warriors for ballot security, the rule of law and ensuring voting remains a sacred and solemn duty of citizens only.”
 
Voters in North Dakota decided on a similar measure, Measure 2, in 2018. The measure amended the North Dakota Constitution to state that “only a citizen” rather than “every citizen” of the U.S. can vote in federal, state, and local elections. Measure 2 was approved by a vote of 66% to 34%.
 
Similar initiatives have been proposed in Colorado and Florida targeting the 2019 and 2020 ballots, respectively.
 
As of 2019, neither Alabama nor any of the state’s local jurisdictions allowed non-citizens to vote in elections. In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed a law prohibiting non-citizens from voting in federal elections, such as U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and presidential elections. Federal law did not address state or local elections. San Francisco and several local governments in Maryland had passed laws to expand voting to non-citizens for certain local elections.
 
The Alabama State Legislature referred a total of five constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot during the 2019 legislative session. In Alabama, a 60 percent vote is needed in each chamber of the Alabama State Legislature to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot for voter consideration.
 
On average since 1997, the legislature referred eight measures to even-year ballots, 81% of which were approved. The legislature may also refer additional amendments to the 2020 ballot during its 2020 legislative session.
 
As of June 3, 2019, 35 statewide ballot measures had been certified for the 2020 ballot in 16 states.
 
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About the author

Jackie Mitchell

Jackie Mitchell is a state ballot measures staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at jackie.mitchell@ballotpedia.org

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