‘Playing A Game’: Texas Democrats Quietly Blocked Constitutional Amendment Requiring Citizenship To Vote

Story by James Lynch

Texas Democratic state lawmakers blocked a Constitutional amendment requiring citizenship to vote in elections from making it out of the legislature and onto the November ballot.

A group of over 50 Texas Democratic House lawmakers voted “present” in late May to prevent Texas Senate Joint Resolution 35 from making it out of the chamber. A handful of Democrats joined more than 80 Republicans who supported the legislation after it passed the Texas Senate with near unanimous support. 

“The Democrats say they do not support non-citizens voting but then given a chance to vote to clearly set that policy in the state constitution where it belongs,” Chris Arps, president of Americans for Citizen Only Voting, told the Daily Caller. “Democrats are playing a game.”

The Constitutional amendment must receive 100 votes out of 150 to pass the House and make it on the November 2023 ballot for Texas voters to decide whether it should be adopted, according to Texas Rep. Matt Schaefer. The state’s Constitution currently prevents people under 18, convicted felons and the mentally incompetent from voting.

Federal law prohibits non-citizens from voting in national elections, but it does not apply to state and local elections, according to Ballotpedia. Seven states specify that non-citizens are not allowed to vote in state and local elections and three allow non-citizens to vote, in addition to Washington, D.C.

The U.S. House passed a Joint Resolution in February to disapprove Washington D.C.’s new law granting voting rights to non-citizens, which 42 Democrats voted in favor of, including Democratic Texas Reps. Colin Allred, Vicente Gonzalez and Henry Cuellar.

Texas’ Constitution does not explicitly limit voting to citizens, and cities with a population of over 5,000 people can adopt a home rule charter to potentially enable non-citizens to vote in elections, Arps explained.

“Any city with a population of more than 5,000 may adopt a home rule charter. While no charter shall contain any provision inconsistent with the Texas constitution it isn’t clear that the provision saying anyone ‘who is a citizen of the United States and who is a resident of this State shall be deemed a qualified voter’ would be considered a limiter on who can vote or a floor on who can vote,” he added.

Republican Texas state Sen. Brian Birdwell introduced the amendment in January and it would add “persons who are not citizens of the United States” to the groups restricted by the Constitution from voting. Republicans could potentially revisit the issue in a special legislative session to overcome the Democrats’ legislative hurdle.

“The value of using state law to bar illegal immigrants from legally voting is it creates a law you can enforce. State courts have taken that power away from the Attorney General’s office so now it rests with District Attorneys and in urban areas they simply do not care and refuse to prosecute voter fraud,” Texas-based GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak told the Daily Caller.

“It is hard to see any justification for opposing an effort to prevent illegal immigrants from voting. Democrats must want illegal immigrants to vote. Presumably, some of them do now. This is not a hypothetical, in some jurisdictions, including in New York City, illegal immigrants can legally vote in local elections. I would hope any special session that has a broad range of issues would include this,” he continued.

“The Texas Democrats are showing their true colors today by denying this legislation the 100 vote threshold needed. Illegals voting is the future they want!” Texas GOP political director Chad Shoemake tweeted after Democrats voted down the amendment on its third reading.

Record amounts of illegal migrants have crossed the southern border into the U.S. in the first two years of the Biden administration. Fiscal year 2022 ended with a record high 2.3 million migrant encounters by border authorities and another 600,000 who have evaded Border Patrol.

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has sent buses holding roughly 19,000 migrants to Democratic-run sanctuary cities to mitigate the illegal migrant surge affecting border towns in the state. The sanctuary cities have condemned Abbott’s busing policy for its perceived effects on black residents and demanded Abbott end the transports.

Numerous Republican governors have sent national guard troops to the southern border to assist Texas with its effort to secure its border with Mexico. President Joe Biden announced in May an executive order to send 1,500 troops to the southern border to assist with administrative work prior to the expiration of Title 42, a Trump-era emergency authority used to expel migrants.

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