Federal judge tossed lawsuit challenging D.C.’s nonresident voting law

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A federal judge in Washington, D.C., dismissed a lawsuit challenging a district law that allows noncitizens to vote in local elections, ruling the plaintiffs did not prove the law violates their rights. 

In an opinion issued Thursday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled against a group of seven plaintiffs — all of whom are U.S. citizens and registered to vote in D.C. — who argued the city’s “Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2022” violates their Fifth Amendment rights. 

The law, passed by the D.C. Council in 2022, removed the citizenship requirement for voting in municipal elections, allowing noncitizen residents to vote in local, but not federal elections, according to court documents. This includes being able to vote for local officials, along with local initiatives, referenda, recalls or charter amendment measures. 

The law also allows noncitizen residents to run for D.C. government roles and serve on the city’s Board of Elections, per court filings. 

The suit, filed against D.C.’s Board of Elections, alleged the law “dilutes the vote of every U.S. citizen voter in the District.” The plaintiffs argued the enfranchisement of noncitizens infringed on their fundamental right to vote, and discriminated against U.S. citizens and native-born U.S. citizens living in D.C. while violating the “constitutional right to citizen self-government.”

The plaintiffs requested the judge to stop the Board of Elections from registering noncitizens to vote and counting votes cast by noncitizens, per the filing. 

Jackson ruled the plaintiffs failed to show anything was “taken away or diminished” from them because of the law. 

“They may object as a matter of policy to the fact that immigrants get to vote at all, but their votes will not receive any less weight or be treated different than noncitizens votes; they are not losing representation in any legislative body; nor have citizens as a group been discriminatorily gerrymander, ‘packed,’ or ‘cracked’ to divide, concentrate or devalue their votes.” 

Jackson argued the plaintiffs are “simply raising a generalized grievance.” 

The Hill reached out to the Immigration Reform Law Institute — which represented the plaintiffs — and the D.C. Board of Elections for comment. 

Those among the plaintiffs included Stacia Hall, who ran as a Republican and lost to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) in 2022, and Ralph Chittams, who was a Republican candidate in 2018 for an at-large seat on the city’s Council. 

The D.C. law was brought to light on Capitol Hill, where the House last year approved a pair of resolutions that disapproved of the bill and its criminal code. This was part of an effort to block D.C. from enforcing the measures, a power granted to Congress under the D.C. Home Rule Act.

The resolutions were not voted upon within the 30-day window in the Senate, allowing the bill to become a law.

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