Republicans on the House Oversight and Administration Committees held a joint hearing on Wednesday highlighting foreign interference in Washington, D.C.’s elections.
“Our nation’s capital should be a beacon of democracy and a national model for excellence in election administration. This isn’t about who wins or loses elections, but rather ensuring voters have confidence in our elections,” said House Admin Chair and Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis.
In his opening remarks, Steil emphasized numerous problems threatening the integrity of D.C. elections, including the district’s allowance of voters to cast a ballot without an ID and ballot harvesting. Among the most notable issues raised, however, is the city’s recent decision permitting non-citizens to vote in local elections.
Passed by the D.C. Council late last year, D.C. Bill 24.300 expands the definition of “qualified elector” for municipal elections to include “otherwise eligible non-citizen residents.” This means that non-citizens residing in the nation’s capital for 30 days, including foreign diplomats from countries such as China and Russia, could vote in mayoral, city council, and other local elections. According to The Washington Post, there are an estimated 50,000 non-citizens residing in D.C.
In February, House Republicans utilized their constitutional authority to pass a measure blocking the law’s implementation. Despite 42 House Democrats joining their Republican colleagues in supporting the bill’s passage (260-173), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer refused to bring it to the Senate floor for a vote.
While Democrats would like to believe otherwise, D.C. has experienced a myriad of election-based administrative failures in recent years. An audit of the city’s 2020 election found that 11 percent of all ballots mailed to voters ahead of the November contest were returned as undeliverable (48,018 out of 421,791), “a rate more than eight times higher than the national average,” according to NPR. This came over a year after the D.C. elections board opted to mail a ballot to every single voter on the city’s voter rolls.
Similar numbers were also reported following the federal district’s 2022 primaries and general elections. According to the D.C. elections board, 65,398 of the 402,323 ballots mailed to voters ahead of the June primary and nearly 90,000 of the 508,543 ballots mailed ahead of the general election were returned as undeliverable.
In an effort to rectify such issues and bring integrity to D.C. elections, Steil and House Republicans are proposing the American Confidence in Elections (ACE) Act. Introduced last year, the measure, according to a bill summary, “prohibit[s] non-citizen voting, allows states to use REAL ID as proof of citizenship, and directs [the] bipartisan [Election Assistance Commission] standards board to establish a federal forum that will help states develop best [election] practices.”
The legislation also includes specific provisions regarding D.C. elections, such as voter ID requirements for in-person and absentee voting, an expansion of poll observer access, and requirements for annual voter roll maintenance. Prohibitions on non-citizen voting, ballot harvesting, and mailing ballots except upon a voter’s request would also be enacted under the law.
“If Democrats want to work together to encourage more people to vote, they can start by supporting the ACE Act to strengthen voter confidence right here in our nation’s capital,” Steil said.