Those in the United States illegally or who aren’t citizens are not able to vote in federal elections. The law is clear. And North Carolina’s Constitution explicitly lays out who can vote in Article VI.

Despite that this is a non-issue based on conspiracies, North Carolina Republicans voted to place an amendment on this November’s ballot that would place a provision in the state Constitution that  … bars non-citizens from voting.

Lawmakers in North Carolina’s General Assembly are following a national GOP playbook used in other states. Immigration is a major issue in this election. Promoting the racist notion that immigrants crossing our southern border are coming here to steal elections for Democrats plays into those baseless racist conspiracies, and are likely to increase GOP base voters, according to political scientists.

Using immigrants as election pawns is nothing new for Republicans. The real question is why Democrats in North Carolina are helping them do it.

The final vote to place the amendment on the ballot was 99-12 in the N.C. House and 40-4 in the N.C. Senate, wide bipartisan majorities.

There’s nothing wrong with bipartisanship on any number of issues. But helping Republicans demonize immigrants on an issue that “wouldn’t change anything in practice,” according to WRAL, is puzzling.

Democrats have been relegated to a superminority in the legislature. And, yes, shady gerrymandering tactics and the insane party switch of one member are certainly to blame.

But Democrats often seem to suffer from the illusion that their voters can be taken for granted. Perhaps they think we aren’t paying attention. Many of us will vote for them anyway, horrified at their increasingly radical GOP opponent.

But that is a dangerous game. People should be inspired by their leaders. Further, those who aren’t inspired and not paying as much attention simply won’t bother to vote at all. In a state President Biden lost by a little more than 1%, shouldn’t our local leaders be working as hard as they can to inspire their own base?

How our Representatives and Senator voted

Rep. Renee Price (D-Orange, Caswell) voted against the bill.  We reached out to Price, who said, “This is a bill that could harm Democrats in tough election districts. As the Constitution is written already, only citizens can vote. This amendment seems to be designed to confuse people into thinking that non-citizen immigrants currently can  and are voting. Voting against a bill that calls for citizen only voters might be misconstrued as voting for allowing immigrants (including illegal immigrants) to vote.”

Rep. Allen Buansi (D-Orange) voted with the Republican majority to place the amendment on the ballot. We also reached out to Rep. Buansi about his vote.

We should say, that on the floor, Rep Buansi made some really strong comments against the bill which we appreciate. He said: “This bill is unnecessary. We have the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and laws that already prohibit noncitizens from voting. North Carolina does not allow noncitizens to vote, anywhere. Period. This bill is essentially a restatement of what is already the law, so I will vote for the bill. But I cannot stress enough that feeding into conspiracies and drumming up irrational fears is not befitting of this body.”

In a conversation with Buansi on July 5, he expanded those thoughts: “The Democrats are trying to make it easier for citizens to vote – I sponsored a bill that would punish people who harass voters and election workers, expand voting hours, and fully fund the state board of elections (full text here). That’s what we, as a body, should be taking up. The [non-citizens amendment] is part of an effort by Republicans that paint us in a false light and make this an issue in November. While [Democrats] are trying to make our case to voters and get more seats so we can focus on accessing the ballot for voters. We can’t do that without getting more Democrats elected. We have to keep a bigger picture in mind. The larger goal here is to get more of us elected so we’re [as a body] not doing things like this.”

We still don’t understand why Buansi voted with Republicans on this bill, after making such strong statements against the bill on the floor. As he said, this is a bill that “drum[s] up irrational fears.”

Sen. Graig Meyer, Orange County’s representative in the upper chamber, voted against the amendment with just three other Democrats in the Senate. We also reached out to Meyer.

He said, “Our Constitution is the sacred document that defines law in North Carolina. It should be amended only sparingly and with care. Indeed, our Constitution already and appropriately limits voting eligibility to people who are citizens.  This proposed amendment is nothing more than a political ploy to validate MAGA conspiracy theories and allow Republicans to run on hateful lies.”

Melody Kramer is a Peabody-award winning journalist whose work has appeared on NPR and member stations around the country, as well as in publications ranging from National Geographic to Esquire Magazine....