The white text across a purple background read:
HR1 passed . Allowing illegal immigrants (foreigners) to vote . No country allows that
Two days earlier this claim first appeared on Facebook, journalism institute Poynter published an article about this exact pernicious and increasingly popular disinformation trend: Facebook’s status update function for sharing brief snippets of text rendering as an image makes it easier for rumors and claims without links or sources attached to proliferate in the ether:
But since [the format was introduced], like other formats on Facebook, the text post feature has been weaponized into an effective way to spread misinformation on the platform.
Over the past few weeks, some of the most viral hoaxes on Facebook have spread in the form of text posts. They make salacious political claims without linking to any website or attaching a photo or video. They often come from regular Facebook users instead of Pages or Groups.
On March 7 2019, we looked at a (false) claim that Chicago CityKey cards could be used as legal voting identification by undocumented immigrants. One day prior to this fact check, we examined another (also false) claim that President Obama flooded Rep. Ilhan Omar’s district with Somali refugees, essentially installing her in office.
Although not identical, the claim above was of the same genus and species — that a function intended to preserve a democratic government was being twisted to introduce a backdoor manipulation of the United States’ voting system. This iteration concerned a bill referenced as “HR1.”
First, we’ll reference a point repeated on both of those previous fact checks — that owing to U.S. Code 18, § 611 (“Voting by aliens“), any voting by undocumented persons in state or federal elections is punishable by jail, fines, or both:
(a) It shall be unlawful for any alien to vote in any election held solely or in part for the purpose of electing a candidate for the office of President, Vice President, Presidential elector, Member of the Senate, Member of the House of Representatives, Delegate from the District of Columbia, or Resident Commissioner, unless—
(1) the election is held partly for some other purpose;
(2) aliens are authorized to vote for such other purpose under a State constitution or statute or a local ordinance; and
(3) voting for such other purpose is conducted independently of voting for a candidate for such Federal offices, in such a manner that an alien has the opportunity to vote for such other purpose, but not an opportunity to vote for a candidate for any one or more of such Federal offices.
(b) Any person who violates this section shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
So does any legislative action in March 2019 effectively undo that federal law? On the same day the status update above appeared, Vox reported:
House Democrats officially passed their massive anti-corruption and pro-democracy reform bill known as HR 1 on [March 1 2019]. The bill passed on a final vote of 234 to 193.
Vox went on to paraphrase what was in the bill, in three sections: campaign finance, ethics, and voting rights. The latter of the three, voting rights, was the most relevant portion and was described in this way:
- Creating new national automatic voter registration that asks voters to opt out rather than opt in, ensuring more people will be signed up to vote. Early voting, same-day voter registration, and online voter registration would also be promoted.
- Making Election Day a holiday for federal employees and encouraging private sector businesses to do the same, requiring poll workers to provide a week’s notice if poll sites are changed, and making colleges and universities voter registration agencies (in addition to the DMV, etc.), among other updates.
- Ending partisan gerrymandering in federal elections and prohibiting voter roll purging. The bill would stop the use of non-forwardable mail being used as a way to remove voters from rolls.
- Beefing up election security, including requiring the director of national intelligence to do regular checks on foreign threats.
- Recruiting and training more poll workers ahead of the 2020 election to cut down on long lines at the polls.
No portion of the article mentions any extension of voting rights to immigrants or even efforts to further enfranchise naturalized citizens. Citizenship and immigration were not mentioned at all. (The only time the word “citizen” appeared was in the phrase “Citizens United,” reference to a controversial decision holding that political spending was a protected form of speech.) CNBC also focused on campaign finance reforms as the purpose of the bill, with an expansion of voting rights — to citizens.
We looked at the bill itself, H.R.1 – For the People Act of 2019 — an act “to expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, and strengthen ethics rules for public servants, and for other purposes.” The word immigrant appeared three times in its full text: once in reference to the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services “but only with respect to individuals who have completed the naturalization process,” meaning they are citizens, once in a section about protections from prosecution due to errors resulting from automatic registration, and once in a section about election security measures unrelated to voting rights.
A separate summary of the bill was longer:
This bill addresses voter access, election integrity, election security, political spending, and ethics for the three branches of government.
Specifically, the bill expands voter registration and voting access, makes Election Day a federal holiday, and limits removing voters from voter rolls.
The bill provides for states to establish independent, nonpartisan redistricting commissions.
The bill also sets forth provisions related to election security, including sharing intelligence information with state election officials, protecting the security of the voter rolls, supporting states in securing their election systems, developing a national strategy to protect the security and integrity of U.S. democratic institutions, establishing in the legislative branch the National Commission to Protect United States Democratic Institutions, and other provisions to improve the cybersecurity of election systems.
This bill addresses campaign spending, including by expanding the ban on foreign nationals contributing to or spending on elections; expanding disclosure rules pertaining to organizations spending money during elections, campaign advertisements, and online platforms; and revising disclaimer requirements for political advertising.
This bill establishes an alternative campaign funding system for certain federal offices. The system involves federal matching of small contributions for qualified candidates.
This bill sets forth provisions related to ethics in all three branches of government. Specifically, the bill requires a code of ethics for federal judges and justices, prohibits Members of the House from serving on the board of a for-profit entity, expands enforcement of regulations governing foreign agents, and establishes additional conflict-of-interest and ethics provisions for federal employees and the White House.
The bill also requires candidates for President and Vice President to submit 10 years of tax returns.
As the summary makes clear, no portion of HR 1 grants undocumented immigrants voting rights or allows undocumented immigrants to vote. An examination of the bill’s full text demonstrated that the only references to immigration involved agencies related to it, and specified that those agencies would work only with individuals who had completed the naturalization process. The latter is in keeping with federal law, which broadly prohibits green card holders as well as undocumented immigrants from voting in federal or state elections. This claim is false.