Amendment to ban noncitizen voting clears Georgia Senate committee

The Georgia Senate Ethics Committee voted 7-2 on Thursday to advance a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit voting by noncitizens. From left: state Sens. Butch Miller, Jason Anavitarte, Bo Hatchett, Steve Gooch and Harold Jones. MARK NIESSE / MARK.NIESSE@AJC.COM
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The Georgia Senate Ethics Committee voted 7-2 on Thursday to advance a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit voting by noncitizens. From left: state Sens. Butch Miller, Jason Anavitarte, Bo Hatchett, Steve Gooch and Harold Jones. MARK NIESSE / MARK.NIESSE@AJC.COM

Credit: Mark Niesse

Credit: Mark Niesse

State law already requires voters to be citizens

A state Senate committee on Thursday approved amending the Georgia Constitution so that it would prohibit noncitizens from voting, reinforcing an existing state law that limits voting to U.S. citizens.

The Senate Ethics Committee voted along party lines, 7-2, to advance the proposal, which could soon reach the full state Senate.

Republican supporters of the measure say a constitutional amendment would prevent the possibility that the Georgia General Assembly could someday change a state law that requires voters to be citizens. In New York City, the City Council recently permitted noncitizens to vote in local elections.

Opponents say the proposal targets noncitizens as part of an election-year strategy by Republicans.

“What was the inspiration for this bill when there’s no need for it, unless it’s to belabor a point that I would think the majority party would be trying to distance itself from, which is violence and racism?” Katherine Maddox of Atlanta said in testimony to the committee.

Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, a Republican running for lieutenant governor, said the General Assembly should put the constitutional amendment on the ballot.

“It sends a clear message that in Georgia the right to vote is sacred and citizenship matters,” said Miller, a Republican from Gainesville who introduced the proposal.

Miller faces a primary challenge from state Sen. Burt Jones, a Republican from Jackson, in the race for lieutenant governor.

The state constitution says that citizens are entitled to vote. The proposed amendment, Senate Resolution 363, would change the constitution’s language to say that only citizens can vote.

The resolution might not have enough votes to pass the state Senate.

Constitutional amendments require two-thirds majorities in both the state Senate and House, followed by approval from a majority of voters in a referendum.

Republicans hold 61% of state Senate seats, meaning Democrats could stop the proposal.

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