ATLANTA (AP) — A state Senate committee is supporting a plan to amend the Georgia Constitution to include a ban on voting by noncitizens that is already in state law.
The Senate Ethics Committee voted 7-2 on Thursday to advance Senate Resolution 363. It moves to the full Senate for more debate. A constitutional amendment needs a two-thirds vote in each chamber to advance to a ballot referendum, meaning unified Democrats could kill the measure.
Republican Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller of Gainesville and other supporters argue the current constitutional provisions that say all citizens of Georgia shall be entitled to vote needs to be clarified to reflect state law that says only citizens of the United States and residents of Georgia can vote.
"It sends a clear message that in Georgia, the right to vote is sacred, and citizenship matters," Miller said.
Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has been campaigning in favor of the change. Sam Teasley, of Raffensperger's office, said the state should "move to this level of clarity" and predicted "there would be broad bipartisan support of a measure to make it clear that only citizens should be voting in elections."
The measure has been debated before in the legislature, but Miller's support is giving it an additional push in the Senate. It's one of several pieces of legislation designed to appeal to conservatives that Miller is backing as he competes in a Republican primary for lieutenant governor against candidates including state Sen. Burt Jones of Jackson, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
Recently, New York City decided legal permanent residents could vote in city elections. That law is being challenged in court. Two Vermont cities and nine Maryland cities allow noncitizens to vote in local elections, while San Francisco allows noncitizens parents of students to vote in school board elections.
Such moves would currently be illegal under Georgia state law.
Opponents, including Cindy Battles of the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda, say the measure will scapegoat Georgia's growing immigrant communities.
"The message is, one, that there's voter fraud, widespread voter fraud, two, that that widespread voter fraud was committed by certain people," Battles told the committee Thursday. "It perpetuates a lie that has been told over and over again with no data to prove it."
There are few allegations of voting in Georgia by people who are not American citizens. The State Election Board in 2021 fined a Gwinnett County woman $500, saying she was not a citizen and voted in 2012 and 2016.