WASHINGTON (NEWSnet/AP) — The House passed a proof-of-citizenship requirement for voter registration Wednesday, a proposal Republicans have prioritized as an election-year talking point.

The Safeguard American Voter Eligibility Act (SAVE Act), approved largely along partisan lines with only five Democrats voting in favor. It is unlikely to advance through the Democratic-led Senate.

The Biden administration says it’s strongly opposed to this bill because there already are safeguards to enforce the law against noncitizen voting.

Research shows noncitizens illegally registering and casting ballots in federal elections is exceptionally rare. Noncitizens are not allowed to vote in federal elections, nor is it allowed for any statewide elections. A handful of municipalities allow them to vote in some local elections.

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson, a key backer of the bill, said in a news conference earlier this week that the Democratic opposition means many Democrats “want illegals to participate in our federal elections; they want them to vote.”

During a speech Wednesday, he called the vote a “generation-defining moment.”

“If just a small percentage, a fraction of a fraction of all those illegals that Joe Biden has brought in here to vote, if they do vote, it wouldn’t just change one race,” Johnson said. 

The majority of Democrats and voting rights advocates have said the legislation is unnecessary because it’s already a felony for noncitizens to register to vote in federal elections, punishable by fines, prison or deportation. Anyone registering must attest under penalty of perjury that they are a U.S. citizen. 

During the Wednesday floor debate, Rep. Joe Morelle of New York, the top Democrat on the House Administration Committee, expressed concern that the bill would disenfranchise various American citizens.

He mentioned military members stationed abroad who couldn’t show documentary proof of citizenship in person at an election office, as well as married women whose names have changed, Native Americans whose tribal IDs don’t show their place of birth and natural disaster survivors who have lost their personal documents.

Republicans are expected to include immigration and election integrity topics among their discussion themes at the Republican National Convention next week in Milwaukee.

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