Alabama legislature passes constitutional amendment clarifying that only US citizens can vote — Issue heads to referendum of the people
MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday unanimously gave final passage to SB 313, a constitutional amendment that would clarify that only United States citizens have the right to vote in Alabama elections.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) sponsored the bill, while State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) carried the bill on the House floor. State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) sponsored a companion piece of legislation and handled the legislation in a House committee two weeks ago.
SB 313 was unanimously passed by the Senate previously and will now appear on Alabama’s March 2020 primary ballot. The issue could help drive Republican turnout on an election date when President Donald Trump will be practically unopposed for his party’s nomination at the top of the ticket and the state’s contenders for U.S. Senate face off.
State Rep. Kirk Hatcher (D-Montgomery) in committee raised an objection to the bill, saying the constitution already achieves the legislation’s stated purpose. However, Mooney said there is ambiguity that needs to be clarified by state law, especially considering efforts by Democrats in states like California to allow non-citizens to vote.
In fact, no articles of the U.S. Constitution limit voting rights to citizens. Multiple amendments spell out the voting rights of U.S. citizens, but none of them explicitly exclude non-citizens, as explained here. Courts, however, have long held voting to be a “privilege” of citizenship.
The 15th Amendment reads, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
The 19th Amendment establishes, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
The 24th Amendment holds, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.”
The 26th Amendment also states, “The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.”
Mooney also explained how Alabama’s constitution leaves some ambiguity. Current laws states, “Every citizen of the United States” meeting certain requirements shall be able to vote.
SB 313 and HB 596 would change this language in the state constitution to read, “Only a citizen of the United States…”
Marsh and Mooney both told Yellowhammer News this should be an open-and-shut issue, but some Democrats across the country seem to want to make it a debate.
“All this bill does is affirm that to vote in Alabama elections, you have to be a resident of Alabama and a citizen of the United States. One citizen, one vote is something we hold sacred as Americans, and I don’t know anybody who disagrees with that,” Marsh said.
“Quite frankly, I don’t even know why there is any debate on this bill, but it seems as though liberals on the national level want to expand voting to non-citizens for political purposes and I want to make it clear that is not something we support,” he added.
Mooney emphasized, “This bill is just common sense: if you’re not an American citizen, you’re not gonna vote in Alabama. Period. I’m proud to have helped lead this fight for election integrity.”
Hatcher, during the committee meeting, said he did not understand the point of the bill. He added that he did not comprehend what the bill is “protecting.”
This comes after U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) last year refused to vote on a resolution opposing illegal immigrant voting in elections.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn