A conservative legal group and a former Republican candidate for DC mayor on Tuesday filed a lawsuit to challenge a controversial new law which would allow non-citizens – including illegal immigrants and foreign embassy staff – to vote in municipal elections.
The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) and Stacia Hall – the GOP candidate for mayor in 2022 – filed a complaint along with several other US citizen voters who say the new law is unconstitutional and violates citizens’ rights in self-government.
The Local Resident Voting Rights Act, passed in October and says that if a noncitizen is eligible to vote, they can do so in local elections as long as they live in Washington DC, for at least 30 days.
The bill caused considerable controversy, including an effort in Congress to overturn it. The lawsuit filed Tuesday says the law “dilutes the vote of every US citizen voter in the District.”
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“As it does, the DC Noncitizen Voting Act is subject to review under both the equal protection and the substantive due process components of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution,” it argued.
The lawsuit argues that the law “violates the constitutional right of citizens to govern, and be governed by, themselves, and should be struck down on that basis.”
“This law—and others like it popping up around the country—is a direct attack on American self-government,” Christopher Hajec, IRLI’s director of litigation, said in a statement. “Proponents of this law say it gives citizens of foreign countries a ‘voice’ in the affairs of the city in which they live. But they already have a voice, protected by the First Amendment. They are free to speak, write, attend council meetings, etc. This law not only gives foreign nationals a voice in the affairs of our country, it gives them the power to vote that politicians definitely need to address. That move of power flies in the face of the clear right of the American people to govern themselves.”
The DC Council has defended the lawand recently called on congressional leaders not to interfere in reversing two controversial laws – including the voting bill.
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Council members said the acts were “responsible legislation” and that the “bills were approved after public hearings, extensive discussion, and careful consideration by the Council of the District of Columbia.”
“The District of Columbia has the right to govern itself as granted to us under the Home Rule Act,” the letter reads. “Any changes or amendments to the local laws of the District shall be made by the elected representatives of the District of Columbia.”
New York City passed a similar bill that also had a 30-day requirement in December 2021. That bill quickly faced a legal challenge, and in June a New York judge ruled it unconstitutional, which violates the state constitution.
Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer and Houston Keene contributed to this report.