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Wisconsin Senate OKs Constitutional Amendment Saying Only Citizens Can Vote In Elections

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Senate approved a constitutional amendment Tuesday that says only citizens can vote in elections.

The Republican-authored amendment must also pass the Assembly this year and both houses of the Legislature next session before it would go to voters to decide. The governor has no power to veto constitutional amendments.

The Wisconsin Constitution guarantees that every U.S. citizen age 18 and over is a qualified elector. But it does not specifically say that only U.S. citizens are qualified to vote in state or local elections.

Republican backers of the measure say that ambiguity needs to be fixed through a constitutional amendment.

The Republican-controlled Senate approved it on a party line 21-12 vote with no debate.

Federal law already requires U.S. citizenship to vote in national elections. No state constitutions explicitly allow noncitizens to vote in state or local elections.

However, there has been a recent push for states to pass constitutional amendments to specifically make clear that voters in state and local elections must be citizens.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke said in a statement supporting the measure he introduced that there is a "concerted effort" across the country to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections.

Cities across the U.S. have considered measures in varying degrees to allow noncitizens such as legal permanent residents, also known as green card holders, or immigrants living in the U.S. without legal permission and student visa holders to vote in local elections for school boards or town councils.

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