BATON ROUGE – A Senate committee advanced a bill by conservative lawmakers on Tuesday aimed at limiting the right to vote in Louisiana to U.S. citizens.
House Bill 178, authored by Rep. Debbie Villio, R-Kenner, proposes a constitutional amendment to make it clear that in Louisiana someone must be a citizen of the United States to register to vote.
Without the amendment, local governing authorities have the power to allow non-citizens the right to vote.
Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin supported the bill.
Villio said this is a political issue only “if you believe a non-U.S. citizen should vote.”
The House had passed the bill 72-17.
Several representatives at House hearings had questioned whether the bill is necessary due to the current wording of the state constitution. The question became: “Can you be a citizen of the state without being a citizen of the U.S.?”
Former Rep. Woody Jenkins, who was a part of the state constitutional convention from 1972 to 1974, said the intention was for a citizen of Louisiana to be a citizen of the U.S. who lives in Louisiana and intends to stay in Louisiana indefinitely.
Villio and Ardoin talked about increasing the integrity and security of the elections.
Some argued that the bill is a solution searching for a problem. According to Villio, no jurisdiction in Louisiana is currently trying to give the right to vote to non-U.S. citizens.
However, she said, this has occurred in other states.
For example, a San Francisco school board allowed non-U.S. citizens to register to vote for an election in February, as they have done for the last several school board elections. All parents were allowed to have a voice in their children’s education, regardless of citizenship status.