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Sen. Mike Lee introduces legislation to require proof of citizenship to vote in US

WASHINGTON — Utah Sen. Mike Lee is one of several Republicans in Washington pushing for a bill that would require proof of citizenship to vote in the United States.

Lee appeared at a press conference on the steps of the Capitol alongside House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, Wednesday, to tout the Safeguard American Voter Eligibility (SAVE) Act, of which Lee is the Senate sponsor. Although federal law already bars noncitizens from voting in federal elections, the bill would require prospective voters to show proof of citizenship in order to vote.

The proposal comes as many Republicans continue to question the results of the 2020 presidential election and former President Donald Trump has claimed Democrats are allowing undocumented immigrants into the country and “signing them up to vote.”

Johnson said “a lot of illegals” are voting in elections, but didn’t offer any proof.

“I mean, the answer is that it’s unanswerable,” he said. “That is the problem. … We all know, intuitively, that a lot of illegals are voting in federal elections. But it’s not something that is easily provable. We don’t have that number. This legislation will allow us to do exactly that. It will prevent that from happening. And if someone tries to do it, it will now be unlawful within the states. We’ll have a mechanism to prove whether they are or not.”

“One citizen, one vote, and that’s how it’s supposed to work,” Lee said.

Research and audits of past elections have found it is rare for noncitizens to try to vote, and most attempts to register to vote by noncitizens are caught by election workers.

“There are likely many problems with America’s voting system and there is no doubt that a non-zero number of noncitizens illegally voted, but there is no good evidence that noncitizens voted illegally in large enough numbers to actually shift the outcome of elections or even change the number of electoral votes,” the Cato Institute wrote in 2020.

Present at the press conference were several key players in the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election that was won by Joe Biden, including Cleta Mitchell, a conservative activist who was present on the January 2021 call when Trump asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s win in the state. Johnson led an amicus brief in support of a Texas lawsuit that sought to overturn the results in several swing states won by Biden that more than 100 House Republicans signed.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas — the House sponsor of the Safeguard American Voter Eligibility Act — and Lee both texted a top Trump aide following the 2020 election to challenge the results, with Lee pledging his “unequivocal support for you to exhaust every legal and constitutional remedy at your disposal to restore Americans’ faith in our elections.” In the days before the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, Lee appeared to distance himself from some of the efforts to keep Trump in office and ultimately acknowledged Biden’s Electoral College win.

At the press conference Wednesday, Lee said an estimated 10-12 million undocumented immigrants have entered the country since Biden took office in 2021, with a total number of noncitizens “somewhere approaching 30 million.”

“If those estimates are accurate, that would mean that roughly one in 11, or one in 12 people currently residing in the United States happens to be a noncitizen,” he said. “This is not an academic exercise, especially when you consider that in some parts of the country, their numbers may be disproportionately represented. There is not a good, legitimate reason to oppose this bill. In fact, there are all kinds of things that would be wrong with this institution if it failed immediately to pass this bill and send it to the president for his signature.”

Exact estimates for the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are hard to pin down, and even Roy has said he has seen “wildly varying numbers.”

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