Press Release

January 31, 2024
Cardin Consponsors Bicameral Bill to Improve Voter Registration at Naturalization Ceremonies

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) joined Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate Rules Committee and California’s former Secretary of State, and Congresswoman Norma Torres (D-Calif.-35) in introducing bicameral legislation to improve voter registration efforts at naturalization ceremonies. The Including New Voters In The Electorate (INVITE) Act would designate United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field offices as voter registration agencies under the National Voter Registration Act, requiring USCIS staff to help new U.S. citizens complete their voter registration forms and return them to the appropriate state agency following their naturalization.

While USCIS policy states that the agency should provide new U.S. citizens with voter registration forms at their USCIS naturalization ceremonies, the policy does not currently require the agency to assist new U.S. citizens in properly filling out or returning their forms, leaving many newly eligible United States citizens unregistered to vote. New citizens naturalized at judicial ceremonies or without a formal ceremony are at an even greater disadvantage, having no guarantee of even receiving voter registration information. Just 61 percent of all naturalized U.S. citizens were registered to vote during the November 2022 election, compared to 70 percent of citizens born in the United States.

The INVITE Act would maintain USCIS’s flexibility to work with state voter registration agencies and nonpartisan voter registration organizations, and it would allow the agency to develop and implement plans with each state to carry out this important work.

Specifically, designating USCIS field offices under the National Voter Registration Act would require them to:

  • Work with states to develop and implement a plan to distribute voter registration information and forms to new citizens following naturalization,
  • Offer assistance to new citizens in filling out the voter registration application, and
  • Transmit the completed application to the appropriate state election official or agency.

USCIS has begun developing potential methods to increase voter registration in response to the White House’s Executive Order on Promoting Access to Voting, which called on agencies to “consider ways to expand citizens’ opportunities to register to vote and to obtain information about, and participate in, the electoral process.”

Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), as well as Representatives Lou Correa (D-Calif.-46), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-Ga.-04), and Delia C. Ramirez (D-Ill.-03), are cosponsoring the bill.

The INVITE Act is endorsed by the ACLU, League of Women Voters of the United States, Stand Up America, The Brennan Center for Justice, National Partnership for New Americans, Demos, CHIRLA, People for the American Way, Welcoming America, SEIU, Common Cause, National Immigration Law Center, Southern Poverty Law Center, End Citizens United, and League of Conservation Voters.

Senator Padilla believes that our democracy is strongest when every eligible American participates. He is a champion for stronger voting rights, bipartisan election administration reforms, and increased funding to modernize and secure our elections. Padilla is a staunch supporter of the Freedom to Vote Act, legislation he and Senate Democrats introduced to improve access to the ballot for Americans, advance commonsense federal election standards and campaign finance reforms, and protect our democracy.

A one-pager of the bill is available here.

Full text of the bill is available here.

To view the release online, click here.