Migrants crossing border
Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Right-wing media are spreading a baseless conspiracy theory that Democrats are trying to import migrants to vote in upcoming elections

Right-wing media are attacking Democrats for allegedly trying to import and encourage migrants to vote as Democrats in upcoming elections. However, only citizens can vote in national elections, and becoming a citizen is a long process with no guarantees. 

These claims evoke the white supremacist “great replacement” theory that claims nonwhite immigrants will be brought in to “replace” white citizens. And some right-wing media figures are nodding to that conspiracy theory more explicitly, alleging that Democrats want migrants to “cancel out” and replace the votes of Americans.

  • Right-wing media figures have baselessly accused Democrats of bringing migrants into the U.S. to sway elections

    • Fox News host Rachel Campos-Duffy claimed that nongovernmental organizations are helping Democrats bring in a “new wave of immigrants” who are “perhaps future voters.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/27/24]
    • Fox News hosts Jeanine Pirro and Greg Gutfeld suggested that Democrats are allowing immigrants into the country to vote Democrat and turn Texas into a swing state. Gutfeld claimed Democrats “talk about bringing in new voters and turning Texas from red to purple to blue.” [Fox News, The Five, 1/30/24]
    • On One America News’ Weekly Briefing, conservative legal analyst John Zadrozny said Democrats are “importing illegal aliens, and they're hoping a lot of them are going to vote this fall, illegally.” Zadrozny claimed Democrats had to make up for lost voters after spending “50 years aborting Americans in the womb.” He directed Republican governors, attorney generals, and “anyone who wants to stop the insanity” to “make sure no illegal alien in your state is allowed to walk into a polling place.” [One America News, Weekly Briefing, 2/25/24
    • Conservative radio host Larry Elder claimed that Democrats “cannot win without importing more Democratic voters.” Elder told the host, “If illegal aliens turned residents turned citizens turned voters would vote Republican, you and I  would not be having this conversation.” [One America News, In Focus, 2/8/24
    • Newsmax host Chris Salcedo said Democrats are “bringing in foreign nationals to cancel out the votes of you Americans.”  [Newsmax, The Chris Salcedo Show, 1/18/24
    • Conservative radio host Rich Valdes said that “Joe Biden is complicit in a plan to redo America" and is “replacing the electorate” by allowing immigrants to obtain driver's licenses and supposedly registering them to vote. Valdes erroneously claimed automatic voter registration applies to undocumented immigrants, saying, “Once you can get a driver's license, you can automatically register to vote, whether you're a citizen or not.” Occasionally, in the process of getting a driver's license, noncitizens get accidentally registered to vote. However, the number of occurrences is extremely small, and it is still illegal for any noncitizen to vote in U.S. elections. [Newsmax, Sunday Agenda, 1/28/24; PolitiFact, 4/5/22; NPR, 2/26/19]
    • OAN host Dan Ball accused Democrats of using immigrants to change “the future course of our elections.” Ball claimed that Democrats have a plan to place 12 million immigrants in “key states” across the country and make them citizens to vote. [One America News, Real America with Dan Ball, 1/15/24]
  • In reality, only citizens can vote in national elections and becoming a citizen is a long process and not guaranteed

    • Despite right-wing claims, myriad legal and logistical hurdles prevent migrants from voting in national elections. Migrants who would like to participate in U.S. elections first have to become U.S. citizens, a process which can take up to a decade or more. The Washington Post’s Philip Bump pointed out that a hypothetical strategy wherein Democrats recruit migrants to be voters would likely fail due to the incredibly long time before they can actually vote. [Poynter, 2/8/24; The Washington Post, 2/15/24]
    • Even if migrants are able to make it through that long process, there’s no guarantee they will vote for Democrats. [Forbes, 2/21/24]
    • Instances of immigrants voting despite being in the United States without authorization are extremely rare. Noncitizen voting (or registering to vote) is often a result of misunderstanding or error, for instance because a person accidentally registers to vote when applying for a driver’s license. Noncitizens who vote risk heavy penalties like deportation. Undocumented immigrants also try to avoid government interactions like voting out of fear of exposing themselves. [Tampa Bay Times, 1/21/24]
    • Federal laws require states to regularly maintain their voter rolls and remove anyone who is ineligible, and failures are rare. A 2022 audit of Georgia’s voter rolls found that there were fewer than 2,000 instances of noncitizens attempting to register to vote within 25 years. None of those attempts succeeded. [The Associated Press, 1/9/24]
  • Hysteria over alleged Democratic migrant voters is part of the white supremacist “great replacement” theory

    • The “great replacement” theory alleges that “elites” are trying to “replace” white citizens with nonwhite immigrants, including replacing the electorate with immigrants. Fox News personalities and guests have routinely pushed the great replacement theory on both the “news” and “opinion” sides of the network. [Media Matters, 5/15/23]
    • According to the National Immigration Forum, “voter replacement” is an iteration of the great replacement theory that “incorporates the inaccurate assumption that nonwhite immigrants will vote a certain way.” The great replacement theory encompasses the proposition that nonwhite immigrants will become voters and undermine or replace white interests. Conservatives engage in this rhetoric when they claim that potential migrant voters are replacing or canceling out the votes of “real Americans.” [National Immigration Forum, 12/2021]