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Republicans propose amendment to make clear that non-citizens can't vote in Ohio

Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau

A constitutional amendment stating that non-U.S. citizens can’t vote in Ohio is working its way through the legislature and could be before voters this fall. The issue of non-citizens voting, long of concern to Republicans, could appear on a crowded ballot that includes races for governor and U.S. Senate.

Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) told the House State and Local Government Committee that the state constitution guarantees the vote to all eligible citizens, but it doesn’t ban state or local lawmakers from allowing non-citizens to vote too.

“What seemed incomprehensible to me only a few years ago may become a reality here in Ohio in a few years unless we act," Seitz said.

Seitz is sponsoring the resolution with Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville).

Seitz noted in March 2020, voters in liberal Yellow Springs approved allowing non-citizens to register and vote in municipal elections — but Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, ruled those registrations must be rejected.

Article V, Section 1 of the Ohio Constitutionsays: "Every citizen of the United States, of the age of eighteen years, who has been a resident of the state, county, township, or ward, such time as may be provided by law, and has been registered to vote for thirty days, has the qualifications of an elector, and is entitled to vote at all elections."

Three-fifths of legislators would have to approve the amendment before it could go to the fall ballot, where it would likely drive turnout among Republican voters.

In February, LaRose said an analysis of the 2020 election found that 5.9 million Ohioans cast ballots, and 39 non-citizens who registered to vote but didn't cast ballots were identified. Eight non-citizens cast ballots. All were turned over to the Ohio Attorney General's Office for further investigation.

Those numbers are way down from 2018 and also less than in 2016.

On this resolution, LaRose issued a statement on his office's website, in which he wrote:

“American elections are only for American citizens, and the cities in other states that have granted non-citizens the right to vote in local elections are undermining the value of what it means to be an American. I have presided over naturalization ceremonies and know that for newly sworn-in American citizens, securing the right to vote is a treasured achievement — a right they have worked hard to achieve. These new Americans know better than anyone that this precious right should not be cheapened by giving it away to those who haven't earned it. This is a smart preventative measure that will provide the certainty needed to ensure this right is protected for Ohioans."

Officials have acknowledged that non-citizens often end up as registered voters by accident.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.