As the state legislature gaveled out the short session, one of its closing actions was to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would enshrine allowing only eligible US citizens to vote in North Carolina.

This amendment passed overwhelmingly in both the House (104-12) and Senate (40-4). Proponents argue it will provide clarity and protect the integrity of elections for future generations, while opponents say it is unnecessary and a ploy to get Republicans to the voting booths this November. However, what is “unnecessary” may be divided by the political party aisle.

In federal elections it remains illegal for a noncitizen to vote; punishable with a fine, prison, or both. However, over the last four years some municipalities in heavily Democrat areas like California, Maryland, and Vermont have extended some voting rights to residents who are not citizens. In May, the US House passed a bill repealing a District of Columbia statute allowing noncitizen residents to vote in DC’s local elections. More than 50 Democrats supported the repeal. The bill has not been taken up by the Democrat-led US Senate.

With an eye on that trend, North Carolina’s lawmakers are among those in seven states nationwide pursuing measures to stop the policy creep. They invited the public to speak on the issue in committee earlier this session.

“Currently, the North Carolina Constitution affirms the voting rights of most adult citizens but is silent on whether noncitizens can vote. This leaves it vulnerable to judicial overreach,” said Jim Stirling of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity at the John Locke Foundation, in comments to the legislative committee.

House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, Republicans’ congressional candidate for NC-14, was among the primary sponsors of the citizen-only voting amendment, House Bill 1074. It ultimately passed with bipartisan support.

The proposed amendment in North Carolina comes as noncitizen voting continues to be a contentious issue nationwide. Proponents of noncitizens voting seem to be capitalizing on ambiguous language in their state and local laws.

Vermont towns allow noncitizens to vote

In Burlington, Vermont, the city passed a new charter provision allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections, as long as they were residents.

Two residents, Michele Morin and Karen Rowell, have filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn this provision, arguing it violates the Vermont Constitution by allowing noncitizens to vote on matters impacting the state-funded education budget. The Republican National Committee and the Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections organization are a part of the lawsuit.

“This anti-democratic agenda is progressing at an alarming pace. It began in two small towns and has now reached Burlington, Vermont’s largest city,” said Derek Lyons, president of Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections. “Noncitizen voting violates citizens’ inherent right to direct how their communities are governed. This is simple. US jurisdictions should be governed by US citizens. The noncitizen voting movement achieves the left’s goal of legalizing foreign interference in American elections. It threatens the rule of law and must be stopped before it further infects Vermont and other states in this country.”

City officials have yet to comment on the lawsuit, which could set a significant precedent for other states considering similar measures. Burlington was the third city in Vermont to change the charter on noncitizen voting. In 2021, Montpelier, the state’s capital, passed a similar charter, but a lawsuit brought against it was dismissed in a trial court, and the Vermont Supreme Court ultimately upheld the statute authorizing noncitizens who are legal US residents in Montpelier to vote in local elections.

“Americans should decide American elections,” said RNC chairman Michael Whatley, who is also the former head of the NCGOP. “Democrats’ persistent efforts to enable noncitizen voting dilute the voices of Americans in Vermont and across the country. This lawsuit is just the latest development in our ongoing fight to prevent noncitizens from voting in our elections.”

North Carolina lawmakers filed the bill seeking to head off the issue here.

“It’s only fair to the citizens of this state that we ensure that only citizens are allowed to vote in this state, and this bill gives them the opportunity to decide that for themselves,” said Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wayne, during floor debate. “I hear a lot from my friends on the other side of the aisle about democracy, and so I want to encourage you to please support this bill and let the people decide that only citizens are allowed to vote in North Carolina.”

November Constitutional Amendments

Under North Carolina state law, constitutional amendments must pass the legislature by a margin of three-fifths and are not eligible for a gubernatorial veto. They will go before all voters in November.