by Dave Williams
Capitol Beat News Service
A proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit non-U.S. citizens from voting in Georgia failed to gain a two-thirds majority in the state Senate Monday after Democrats charged Republicans with playing election-year politics.
Senators supported the constitutional change sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller (R-49, Gainesville) 33-14. But 38 votes are required in the 56-seat Senate to approve constitutional amendments and put them on the ballot for Georgia voters to decide.
Miller, who is running for lieutenant governor, warned that New York City recently added 800,000 residents to its voter rolls by passing an ordinance allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections.
“We want to guard against that sort of thing in Georgia,” he said.
“The ballot box should be the most sacred, protected place in our government,” added Senate Rules Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis (R-53, Chickamauga).
Senate Democrats didn’t object to banning non-citizens from voting but complained such a prohibition already exists both in state law and in the Georgia Constitution.
Sen. Harold Jones (D-22, Augusta) argued the legislation would only serve to further divide Georgians.
“Our law is clear that non-citizens cannot vote,” he said. “It’s all foolishness. But it’s not funny. It’s sad.”
Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-10, Decatur) couched his words but essentially accused Republicans of pushing a constitutional change that would have no real impact purely for political gain.
“The intent of this legislation may be to incite a particular base in this state to gin up support,” he said.
Miller put the Senate on notice that he plans to seek reconsideration of the constitutional amendment when the chamber convenes on Tuesday.
This story available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.