Raffensperger signed a request Thursday calling for the constitutional amendment. The petition was authored by Americans for Citizen Voting, a national nonprofit supporting citizen-only voting, to bring awareness to the issue.
Outside of a constitutional convention, the only way to amend the Georgia Constitution is by lawmakers introducing an amendment and approving it by a two-thirds vote in both chambers. The amendment then would need to be approved by Georgia voters.
"Only American citizens should be allowed to cast a ballot. We can't run the risk that special interests one day succeed in giving non-citizens a say in our laws, taxes, and representatives the way they have in other states," Raffensperger said during a news briefing at the state Capitol. "I have worked hard to ensure foreign elements cannot alter our elections through cyberterrorism, so I'm certainly opposed to letting them influence our elections through voting."
State law already defines "every person who is a citizen of the United States and a resident of Georgia as defined by law … shall be entitled to vote." Raffensperger said adding new language to the state constitution would ensure the policy remains in place.
Raffensperger said Georgia underwent separate incidents of noncitizen voters registering in past elections, which his office led to the attorney general for prosecution. Adding clear language to the constitution would close legal loopholes and assist the state to avoid future lawsuits, he said.
Noncitizen voting in federal elections is prohibited across the country, but some cities are allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. Atlanta suburb Clarkston, which has a large group of immigrants, has granted non-citizens to vote.
Municipalities in Vermont, California, Maryland, and Massachusetts have passed laws allowing noncitizens to vote, Pew said. Raffensperger's office said Alabama, Colorado, Florida, and North Dakota recently have passed bills by full margins to provide that only U.S. citizens may vote in local, state and school board elections.
"Voting is a sacred right of citizenship, and it must be strictly reserved for citizens and citizens only," Americans for Citizen Voting President Christopher Arps said. "No exceptions."
Lawmakers are interested in data from the Georgia secretary of state and Frances Watson, his director of investigations, declining to provide further details, an aide familiar with the commission's efforts told the outlet.