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Lake Ad Makes Misleading Claim About Gallego and Noncitizen Voting

Este artículo estará disponible en español en El Tiempo Latino.

Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego has consistently said that he opposes allowing anyone other than United States citizens to vote in Arizona and in federal elections. But in a campaign ad attacking him, Arizona Republican Senate candidate Kari Lake misleadingly claims that the congressman “supports … allowing illegals to vote.”

Other than citing a bill name and number in small font, the ad does not make clear that Lake’s claim is based on Gallego’s February 2023 vote against a joint resolution that would have stopped Washington, D.C., from enacting a law that gives eligible noncitizens — regardless of their immigration status — the right to vote in that city’s local elections for positions such as mayor and councilmember.

However, the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act, which later became D.C. law, does not allow the city’s noncitizen residents to vote in federal elections, which is prohibited under federal law.

“Washington, D.C. is not Arizona, and I do not believe Congress should be in the business of telling the residents of Washington, D.C. how to hold their democratic elections,” Gallego said in a statement at the time of his vote in 2023.

The attack ad could lead viewers to wrongly believe that Gallego supported letting people without legal status vote in federal, state and local elections in Arizona.

What’s more, on May 23, over a week after the ad began airing, the congressman switched positions on the D.C. law and voted for a different bill pushed by Republicans that would repeal the city’s voting ordinance.

“I believe that only citizens have the Constitutional right to vote, which is why I voted for this legislation,” Gallego said in a statement about his recent vote.

Lake and the National Republican Senatorial Committee are reportedly spending $675,000 to run the immigration-focused ad on broadcast, cable and digital media in Arizona. It is the initial phase of a $10 million ad buy, her campaign said in a press release.

Lake is the front-runner in the state’s GOP Senate primary and is expected to face Gallego in the general election for the seat being vacated by Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. The race could determine control of the U.S. Senate in 2025. Sinema, along with two other independent senators, caucuses with the Democrats, helping the party maintain a two-seat majority.

The ad starts with a group of Arizonans discussing illegal immigration at the U.S. southern border and then blaming President Joe Biden. Later, Lake joins them and talks about the “big differences” between her and Gallego, who she says supports “sanctuary cities” and “allowing illegals to vote,” and is “opposed to the border wall.”

Gallego did co-sponsor the Safeguarding Sanctuary Cities Act of 2017, which would have barred reducing or withholding federal funding to state or local governments that restrict law enforcement from complying with immigration detainer requests.

He also objected to building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, saying in a March 2018 social media post that the structure proposed by then-President Donald Trump was “stupid” and “useless.” In a 2017 op-ed, Gallego also said that he opposed Trump’s wall because it was about “dividing Americans – playing upon the racial fears and anxiety” and “will do nothing about the real issue of visa overstays.”

More recently, Gallego has supported bipartisan immigration legislation with $650 million included for border wall construction or reinforcement.

But Lake’s claim that Gallego wants people without legal status to vote is misleading.

A citation in a version of the ad captured by AdImpact on May 14 references the congressman’s vote against H.J.Res. 24, which passed the House with bipartisan support in February 2023. (The version of the ad the Lake campaign uploaded to YouTube wrongly cites the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.)

The joint resolution was introduced by House Republicans after the D.C. Council approved the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act in October 2022. The bill amended the city’s election code to allow all qualifying D.C. residents – including those without a legal immigration status – to vote for mayor, city council, attorney general and other locally elected positions in D.C., as well as ballot initiatives and referendums.

But before bills passed by the D.C. Council can officially become law, they are required to be submitted for review by Congress. That’s because the U.S. Constitution gives Congress legislative authority over the District, which is the federal capital and not a state.

After the bill was submitted to the House for review in January 2023, the resolution disapproving the D.C. bill was introduced, and it passed with 260 votes in favor, including 42 from Democrats. Gallego was one of the 162 Democrats who voted against the resolution and in favor of allowing the city’s voting rights law take effect.

At the time, the congressman said he would not support allowing noncitizens to vote in federal elections or elections in his home state, but he argued that the nation’s capital city — not Congress — should control its own elections.

“I believe voting is a fundamental right reserved for the citizens of the United States, and I will oppose any effort to erode that right in Arizona and on the federal level,” Gallego said in a Feb. 9, 2023, statement. “But Washington, D.C. is not Arizona, and I do not believe Congress should be in the business of telling the residents of Washington, D.C. how to hold their democratic elections. Today’s vote, if anything, is yet another example of why we need D.C. statehood, so those living in Washington no longer find themselves at the mercy of a vindictive Republican House majority.”

Because the Democratic-controlled Senate did not vote on the resolution in the required 30-day review period, the D.C. legislation automatically became law in early 2023. D.C. is now one of only a few cities or municipalities in the country that permit noncitizen residents to participate in local elections.

However, on May 23, the House voted on another GOP-led bill, H.R. 192, that would repeal the D.C. law. This time, 262 members voted in favor of the legislation, including 52 Democrats. Gallego, in a reversal, was one of the representatives who supported the bill, which is unlikely to receive a vote in the Senate.

In a statement, the Arizona lawmaker said, “I believe that only citizens have the Constitutional right to vote, which is why I voted for this legislation.” He also claimed that the new bill made “important improvements on the previous attempt” to block the D.C. law — even though the legislation would have had the same effect as the joint resolution if signed into law.

We asked Gallego’s congressional office and his Senate campaign for clarification, but neither has responded.

After his vote on May 23, Lake released a statement accusing Gallego of having “flip-flopped” because “he is running for Senate and finds it politically convenient.”

Gallego may no longer believe that D.C. should decide if noncitizens can vote in the city’s local elections, but he has been consistent about noncitizens not being allowed to vote in state and federal elections — contrary to what the ad suggests.

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