U.S. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) speaks at a news conference with members of the House Freedom Caucus on Capitol Hill Sept. 15, 2022, in Washington, DC.

U.S. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) speaks at a news conference with members of the House Freedom Caucus on Capitol Hill Sept. 15, 2022, in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/TNS)

House Republicans, under the guise of preventing noncitizens from voting, are promoting a new ID requirement so restrictive that it could disenfranchise untold numbers of otherwise eligible Americans this November.

The bill, sponsored by Texas Rep. Chip Roy and championed by House Speaker Mike Johnson, would go further than any previous voter ID measure. It would require everyone to produce “documentable” proof of their U.S. citizenship before casting a ballot in a federal election. In most instances, that would mean presenting a certified birth certificate (not a photocopy) or an unexpired U.S. passport.

It is a cynical and utterly unnecessary move designed to reinforce the notion that voter fraud is somehow widespread, though its proponents have never produced any evidence.

Johnson appears determined to curry favor with former President Donald Trump, who has been floating baseless claims about rigged elections for years. Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016 but insisted that illegal ballots cast by immigrants had tainted the results. He won the Electoral College but continued to claim that fraud had occurred and appointed a “voting integrity commission” to investigate.

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a commission member, released a preliminary report on the findings, affirming that no proof of fraud was found. “It’s calling into the darkness, looking for voter fraud,” he told The Associated Press at the time. “There is no real evidence of it anywhere.”

Voters already attest under penalty of perjury that they are citizens and typically must produce some type of identification before voting. As Johnson and other Republicans know, the consequences for noncitizens falsely claiming citizenship in order to vote are severe. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 stipulates that violators be deported.

Like other so-called election integrity efforts, this latest gambit is doomed to fail, in no small measure, because its ostensible objective — reducing voter fraud — is already rare. Such efforts are, however, singularly effective at their actual, unstated goal: suppressing the vote to benefit one party.

There are years of data, mostly from GOP-led states with strict voter ID requirements, to demonstrate that tighter restrictions only disenfranchise otherwise eligible voters. According to a review of such studies by the Brennan Center for Justice, there is a “large and growing pile of evidence that strict voter ID laws disproportionately impact voters of color,” along with the elderly and students.

In Minnesota, which consistently has one of the highest voter turnouts in the country, Secretary of State Steve Simon said he worries about the message such proposals send, let alone the chaos that could ensue if such requirements were adopted.

“We want to honor everyone who is an eligible citizen,” he said. “I am not aware of any state that requires documented proof of citizenship.” The number of voters who could flood government offices with requests for birth certificates, passports, or other documents “is unimaginable. No agency could cope,” Simon said.

Roy, the bill’s sponsor, claimed in a news release that since President Joe Biden took office, “millions of illegal aliens have poured into our country illegally and many are given the opportunity to register to vote in federal elections.” Roy has offered no evidence that anything of the sort is happening.

The damage from such outlandish claims is more than superficial. The continued attacks by Roy, Johnson and other Republicans undermine confidence in the nation’s voting system. During a news conference last month to announce the bill, Johnson made the unfounded claim that millions of undocumented immigrants “that have been paroled can simply go to their local welfare office or the DMV and register to vote.”

Even if Johnson pushes for a floor vote soon, the Democratic Senate will likely reject the bill. That doesn’t mean the danger will have passed. Should Trump return to the White House, he would be certain to sign such legislation. And if he loses, Johnson and House Republicans will have conveniently provided him with another false narrative to challenge the results.

Democrats, it must be said, have done their share to muddy the waters, with several cities and states that allow noncitizens to vote in non-federal elections. Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and a smattering of municipalities in Maryland and Vermont allow noncitizen voting in local races. Several others have proposed such measures.

These jurisdictions have argued that noncitizens have a compelling interest in local issues. That may be the case, but extending even limited voting privileges to these residents creates confusion and invites the backlash we’re seeing now, which could result in hardship and disenfranchisement of eligible voters.

Voter suppression is antithetical to the broad turnout that should be the goal of every election. Regrettably, allowing noncitizens to vote — even in local elections — is being used by some to justify ever higher barriers for all voters.

Patricia Lopez is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering politics and policy. She is a former member of the editorial board at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where she also worked as a senior political editor and reporter. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

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