Do ‘citizens’ or ‘residents’ get to vote in Louisiana? Voters will decide

Constitutional amendment will appear on Dec. 10 ballot

By: - June 6, 2022 11:40 am
Do ‘citizens’ or ‘residents’ get to vote in Louisiana? Voters will decide

A streetcar rolls past a voting precinct in New Orleans. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Louisiana voters will get to decide on a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit non-U.S. citizens from voting in elections.  

House Bill 178, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Villio, R-Kenner, received final passage Friday in the Senate with a 30-1 vote and will be placed on the Dec. 10 ballot for final consideration by Louisiana voters. 

The proposal would change a section in the Louisiana Constitution that currently gives every “citizen of the state,” who is at least 18, the right to register and vote. The amendment would add the phrase “and the United States” after the word “state.”

Louisiana lawmakers target local voting rules with proposed amendment

Villio sponsored the bill after Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin pointed out that the current constitutional language could allow someone to interpret the phrase “citizen of the state” to mean “resident of the state.” Because a foreign citizen can be a Louisiana resident, someone could argue that the state constitution allows non-citizens to vote in local elections in Louisiana, he said. 

The proposal was initially tailored to prevent local governments from changing any voter registration qualifications to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections, but lawmakers dropped that provision in favor of one that states: “No person who is not a citizen of the United States shall be allowed to register and vote in this state.”

The bill did not pass without debate. Some Democrats opposed it out of concern that the ballot measure would create a false narrative that non-citizens are voting in Louisiana.  

Over the past two years, Ardoin has taken a non-partisan stance against some election-related bills spawned by false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. He assured state lawmakers he would not be backing Villio’s proposal if he thought it would create more political division among voters.

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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the years since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and worked on staff at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. He also taught English as an adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Among his recognitions are McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association. Muller is an alumnus of Jesuit High School and the University of New Orleans and is a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper. He lives in Louisiana with his wife and two sons.

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