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Georgia Senate committee OKs ban on noncitizen voting

Proposed constitutional amendment prohibiting non-U.S. citizens from voting in Georgia cleared a state Senate committee Thursday. The Senate Ethics Committee’s Republican majority passed the measure 7-2 along party lines after opponents criticized it as unnecessary. Georgia law, federal law and the U.S. Constitution already contain a ban on noncitizen voting.

“There is absolutely no need to amend the Georgia Constitution,” said Cindy Battles, director of policy and engagement for the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda. Katherine Maddox of Atlanta linked the proposed constitutional amendment to the dispute over the 2020 presidential election results and the attack on the U.S. Capitol a year ago by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. “What is the inspiration for this bill … unless it’s to belabor a point I would think the majority party would be trying to distance itself from: violence and racism,” she said.

But the resolution’s supporters said it is simply an attempt to clarify a ban on noncitizen voting that is not clear as written in the current state constitution.

Sam Teasley, director of external affairs in the Georgia secretary of state’s office, said it is “permissive” in that it states citizens may vote but does not specifically prohibit noncitizens from casting a ballot. “It is not clear,” he said.

Teasley’s boss, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, this week called for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning noncitizens from voting. “In Georgia, the right to vote is sacred,” Senate President Pro Tempore and GOP candidate for lieutenant governor Butch Miller said Thursday. “Citizenship matters.”

Miller’s resolution passed the committee 7-2 and now heads to the Senate Rules Committee to schedule it for a vote of the full Senate.

However, it faces an uphill battle. Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote to pass, and Senate Republicans lack the 38 votes they would need to reach that supermajority without help from Democrats.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

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