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Redundant Constitutional Amendment Puts Fear on the Ballot This Fall

screen shot of naturalization test questions for Gasparian Spivey Immigration

When Louisiana votes on December 10—not November 8, the upcoming election—Constitutional Amendment No. 1 will ask voters whether or not they want to prohibit non-U.S. citizens from being allowed to register to vote or vote in Louisiana. 

Bluntly, this is a naked attempt to make immigration part of the Louisiana election because sadly, immigration motivates part of the conservative voting base. It’s an effort to put the fear that non-natives are changing America on the ballot, but it’s a stunt since only citizens have the power to vote now. The amendment asks voters to stop people from doing something that they can’t do now.

State Rep. Debbie Villio of District 79—Kenner—proposed Act 279 HB 178, which reads, “No person who is not a citizen of the United States shall be allowed to register and vote in this state.” It’s redundant, but it also capitalizes on the the ignorance of those who don’t know that and believe the stories they have heard about the lack of integrity in our elections. Villio’s bill explicitly planned to put this issue on the ballot. The text of HB 178 reads, “Be it further resolved that this proposed amendment shall be submitted to the electors of the state of Louisiana at the statewide election to be held on December 10, 2022.”

The amendment is part of a barrage of constitutional amendments in state elections across the country designed to use conservatives’ fears about ballot integrity to motivate voters, even though the examples they identify have been repeatedly disproven and debunked. Louisiana is not alone in targeting immigrants either. An Ohio constitutional amendment stipulates that “only a citizen of the United States, who is at least 18 years of age and has been a legal resident and registered voter for at least 30 days, can vote at any state or local election held in this state.”

The Ohio proposal is more disturbing because it also freezes out those who want to vote but registered less than 30 days before the election. But it too makes an issue of citizenship as a condition of voting as if it weren’t already an obstacle. It’s an obstacle, by the way, that newly naturalized citizens know because it’s one of the things they can be asked about on the Civics portion of the Naturalization Test. Question 48 reads:

There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote. Describe one of them.

  • Citizens eighteen (18) and older (can vote)
  • You don’t have to pay (a poll tax) to vote
  • Any citizen can vote (women and men can vote)
  • A male citizen of any race (can vote)

Villio’s amendment is cynically redundant but clearly designed to give voters with anxieties about immigration and election integrity a reason to get out and vote, even though they’re on the wrong side of the facts.

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