- The Washington Times - Monday, August 16, 2004

Just before the D.C. Council recessed for the summer, a handful of D.C. lawmakers threw their support behind a bill that would permit non-U.S. citizens the right to vote. The issue will justifiably prove contentious when local and federal lawmakers return next month and as voters decide where local and national candidates stand on key immigration issues. Non-citizens should not be granted this franchise.

D.C. Council members Harold Brazil, Adrian Fenty and Jim Graham co-introduced the Equitable Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2004, and two colleagues, Sharon Ambrose and Kevin Chavous, co-sponsored it. All five are Democrats, and all five are liberals angling for immigrant support. For example, Mr. Graham represents Ward 1, a densely populated ethnic melting pot situated east of the National Zoo. (Its major corridors include Georgia Avenue, such neighborhoods as Adams Morgan and such landmarks as Howard University.) Mr. Brazil is trying to position himself for a strong showing in next month’s at-large primary, having barely beaten back a challenge by Mr. Graham earlier this year.

The legislation would further relax voter-registration laws by handing resident aliens the right to vote for mayor and in other local races. It is similar to laws in some other U.S. cities, including Chicago and Takoma Park, the liberal Maryland town that shares a border with Mr. Fenty’s Ward 4.

Passage of the Equitable Voting Rights Amendment Act, or Bill 15-0977, would undermine what it means to be an American and widen loopholes in existing laws. Current state and federal laws mandate that applicants include their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security numbers with their applications, in addition to proof of residency. However, applicants already get around those laws by providing copies of fake IDs, and stolen or fraudulent documents, including Social Security cards.

Supporters of Bill 15-0977 argue that non-U.S. citizens should have the right to vote because they pay taxes and have children in public schools. Their talking points are misplaced; paying taxes and having children have nothing to do with earning the right to vote.

The issue of American citizenship and voting rights must not be taken lightly. In fact, the very first question posed on the National Voter Registration form is this: “Are you a citizen of the United States of America?” It is the pivotal question.

Only two more D.C. lawmakers need to sign on to the voter-registration bill for it to be passed on the mayor. Some congressional Republicans were poised to pre-empt the legislation this summer, when the city’s budget was up for a House vote. Rep. Tom Tancredo backed down when he was assured that no such legislation would become law. Immigration has historically stirred great passion in America — both positive and negative. But this D.C. bill is un-American and does not deserve a seat at the table of serious deliberations.

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