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Amendment backer says constitution does not limit voting to citizens

‘Neither the U.S. Constitution nor most state constitutions specifically limit voting to U.S. citizens.’

The chief proponent of a proposed Florida Constitution amendment to declare that “only a citizen” may vote says the effort is a response to a nationwide effort by the “strident left” to allow non-citizens to vote in some elections.

“Efforts are underway across the country in liberal cities to allow non-citizens to legally vote. San Francisco, Chicago, several cities in Vermont and Maryland already allow non-citizens to legally vote in some or all local elections. Boston and New York City council leaders are pushing to allow non-citizen voting in their cities,” John Loudon, chair and treasurer of the  Florida Citizen Voters committee, said in a text.

That organization is circulating petitions in Florida to get a proposed Florida Constitution amendment on the 2020 ballot that would change the wording from “every citizen” who is qualified and registered in Florida can vote, to “only a citizen” who is qualified and registered can vote.

Already his group, founded in November, has reported receiving $400,000 in cash and $828,416 in in-kind signature gathering services from Citizen Voters Inc., a corporation on which Loudon is a director.

“In each of these states their constitutions say nearly the same thing ‘Every Citizen shall be an elector.’ This inclusive phase indicates who can, but not who can’t vote.  Liberal groups are using this loophole to push legal non-citizen voting,” Loudon wrote. “The Citizen Voters Amendment fixes this loophole with a change of only three words: deleting the words ‘Every citizen…’ and replacing with ‘Only a citizen.'”

In Florida today, non-citizens cannot legally vote. The first question on any voter registration form asks, “Are you a United States citizen?” and if the answer is no, the person cannot register.

Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said the issue is not what is legal, but what can be checked. He said supervisors have no access to any national databases of citizens, so there is no comprehensive way to determine if someone is lying if they check the “Yes” box. Florida is moving to “smart driver licenses” that require people to provide proof of citizenship, and supervisors have access to that data. But that is an emerging database and far from comprehensive.

Asked if the amendment is a way to get a Republican hot-button issue, immigration, before voters in the 2020 election, Loudon argued instead that it is an effort to get ahead of liberals’ efforts to turn “every citizen” into a loophole to allow for non-citizen voting, possibly in municipal elections.

The Florida amendment drive also is part of a national effort being pursued in numerous states, he noted. Loudon is a board member of the national Citizen Voters organization, a former volunteer policy director for America First Policies, a pro-President Donald Trump committee, and a former Republican state senator from Missouri. He lives in West Palm Beach.

“Let’s be clear – Citizen Voters seeks to counter efforts from the strident Left  pushing to allow non-citizens to legally vote in our elections. Citizen Voters – and the vast majority of Americans, including most naturalized citizens – believe elections in the United States should be limited to citizens of the United States,” he argued.

“The left’s radical push to allow non-citizens to legally vote highlights the fact that neither the U.S. Constitution nor most state constitutions specifically limit voting to U.S. citizens. Citizen Voters believes we should fix this missing protection before more places dilute the votes of U.S. citizens and diminish the sacrifices naturalized citizens took to legally gain their right to vote in our elections,” he concluded.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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