Originally Published in Politifact
Noah Y. Kim - March 31, 2021
Some social media users are spreading a misleading claim about a Democratic proposal to expand voting rights. They claim that the bill, H.R. 1, gives immigrants illegally in the country the right to vote.
"For all of you who can’t think for yourself on the left … you cry endlessly about ‘foreign interference’ yet you’re totally ok with allowing ILLEGALS the right to vote by backing H.R. 1," reads an Instagram post.
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The bill’s goal is to make it easier for eligible American citizens to register to vote. It doesn’t change federal law that bars noncitizens from voting in federal elections.
"Nothing in the proposed statute would make it legal for noncitizens to register and/or vote," said Rebecca Green, professor and co-director of the Election Law Program at William & Mary Law School. "There are federal and state criminal sanctions prohibiting noncitizens from registering and voting, which H.R. 1 does nothing to disturb."
No change to citizenship requirement to vote
The Instagram post doesn’t include any evidence for its assertions. But claims that the legislation would allow noncitizens to vote have often revolved around its provisions about automatic voter registration.
Under the bill, people interacting with government offices — such as a motor-vehicle or public-assistance agency — will have their information forwarded to election officials for registration purposes, unless they opt out.
But nothing about this automatic registration allows noncitizens to vote or register to vote. The bill specifically says that only "eligible citizens" will be registered under this provision.
If a person’s citizenship status isn’t on file at the government office, that person will have to fill out a registration form attesting to their citizenship. Noncitizens who falsify their citizenship status on one of these applications would be risking criminal sanction, Green said.
Those who violate the law by voting or registering to vote can face incarceration, deportation or fines.
Nearly 20 states and the District of Columbia have already either passed or implemented automatic voter registration, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. There is no evidence that these options have led to significant numbers of noncitizens becoming registered to vote, Danielle Lang, a voting expert at the Campaign Legal Center, previously told PolitiFact.
Opponents of H.R. 1 have pointed to a glitch in California’s automatic voter registration program in 2018, which erroneously registered thousands of people to vote, including at least one noncitizen. Officials said that the error resulted from a programming flaw, and that they canceled the registrations and fixed the system. Any mail-in ballots sent to people who were mistakenly registered weren’t counted on Election Day.
H.R. 1 also contains a provision stating that ineligible immigrants registered in error like the noncitizen in California can’t be prosecuted for their immigration status. But anybody who lies during registration or intentionally misleads officials could still face prosecution.
An Instagram post says that H.R. 1 would give immigrants illegally in the country the right to vote.
The bill doesn’t do that. H.R. 1 keeps in place federal and state criminal laws that prohibit noncitizens from voting or registering to vote.
This claim is False.