Polling Station
Image of a polling station Unsplash.com/Marilyn Tran

House Republicans passed on Wednesday a bill requiring expanded proof of citizenship to vote in federal elections. The initiative, which passed the Lower House in a 221-198 vote with the support of five Democrats, also imposes voter roll purge requirements on states.

The bill, however, faces long odds in the Senate given Democrats' opposition to it. President Joe Biden has also vowed to veto it should it pass. Detractors claim declaring noncitizen voting illegal is redundant, as it's already the case in the country, and that the additional provisions could lead to citizens being rejected.

Voting laws vary by state, with some requiring photo identification to register and others, like Pennsylvania and New Mexico, not requiring any kind of documentation.

The SAVE Act would require most individuals to have a passport to register to vote. However, less than half of all U.S. citizens have one, according to data from the State Department. Driver's license and tribal ID cards, used by many as their main form of identification, usually don't show proof of citizenship and wouldn't be allowed under the law.

Moreover, The Associated Press reported that several states have already reviewed their voter rolls between 2016 and 2022, and their audits showed that less than 50 noncitizens in each state had voted in recent elections, an infimal proportion of the total.

Proponents, on their end, claim that unlawful residents are indeed voting in federal elections despite not being allowed to do so. "We all know, intuitively, that a lot of illegals are voting in federal elections. But it's not been something that is easily provable. We don't have that number, said House Speaker Mike Johnson in May.

"This legislation will allow us to do exactly that — it will prevent that from happening. And if someone tries to do it, it will now be unlawful within the states," he added. Many Republicans have echoed this thinking, some claiming that Democrats are opening the borders to allow noncitizens to vote for their party and give them an edge in the elections.

Texas Rep. Chip Roy, who introduced the bill in May, said that "radical progressive Democrats know this and are using open border policies while also attacking election integrity laws to fundamentally remake America." According to The Hill, his main piece of evidence was a "verbal flub" by President Biden in May, when he appeared to refer to Latino immigrants as "voters" in a radio show.

Juan Espinoza, senior civil rights adviser at UnidosUS, told the outlets that initiatives like this one are leading to "heightened threats against election officials and voters at the polls, especially in places where Latinos are a growing and significant part of the eligible voting population."

"This bill is a dangerous political ploy being used to suppress the vote in communities of color and further undermine voting rights in this country," he added.

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