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Foreign Interference? How Non-Citizens Are Voting in American Elections (Gatestone Institute)


May 30, 2023

  • You probably know the [National Voter Registration Act] as "Motor Voter." It is the federal requirement that requires state motor vehicle offices to offer voter registration and the ability to update your address.

  • Sounds convenient? Now, we have data showing one of the side effects of Motor Voter is to put non-citizens onto American voter rolls.

  • [W]e have collected extensive records of non-citizens asking to be removed from the voter rolls. Sometimes those records reveal how the foreign citizen was registered to vote, and the Motor Voter process represents the vast majority of cases.

  • Chicago officials provided registration records where some foreign nationals even checked "NO" to the question of whether the person is a United States citizen, and were still registered.

  • The Pennsylvania State Department admitted that due to what election officials referred to as a "glitch" that they had been accidentally registering foreign nationals to vote for two decades. They have been fighting for over five years to conceal details, including the number of foreign nationals the Commonwealth registered to vote by mistake.

  • The reports from Maricopa County and Chicago are not an inventory of every non-citizen vote, but only those who informed election officials they were not American citizens. So, the catalog of confessed non-citizens is almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg.

  • What can be done about non-citizens registering to vote?

  • Congress can solve the problem by allowing states to validate citizenship effectively. This could be as easy as providing a passport, birth certificate or other evidence of being an American at the time of voter registration.

  • Another easy fix is for Congress to add citizenship to the National Voter Registration Act's reasonable voter list maintenance requirements for states. Motor Voter does not put the same obligation for states to keep voter rolls free from non-citizens as it does, for example, dead voters.

One of the side effects of the National Voter Registration Act is to put non-citizens onto American voter rolls. (Image source: iStock)

This month marks the 30th anniversary of President Bill Clinton signing the National Voter Registration Act into law. You probably know the law as "Motor Voter." It is the federal requirement that requires state motor vehicle offices to offer voter registration and the ability to update your address.

Sounds convenient? Now, we have data showing one of the side effects of Motor Voter is to put non-citizens onto American voter rolls.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation, of which I am president, has been examining Motor Voter at 30; the good and the bad.


 

Mark your calendar. Join MFE's Zoom at Noon this Thursday, June 1.



 

On one hand, the law has greatly increased the transparency in our elections. The law requires that all voter list maintenance records be available for public inspection. When elections are conducted with transparency, we trust the process more regardless of which candidate wins.

Additionally, Motor Voter requires states to have a reasonable program to remove registrants who have moved out of state or have passed away. There is no other obligation for election officials to have clean rolls.

On the downside, Motor Voter has led to foreign nationals who are not US citizens getting registered to vote, and documents prove it.

We know this because we have collected extensive records of non-citizens asking to be removed from the voter rolls. Sometimes those records reveal how the foreign citizen was registered to vote, and the Motor Voter process represents the vast majority of cases.


According to election records from Maricopa County, Arizona, 222 foreign nationals were removed from the county voter registration list since 2015. One of these individuals was registered for 27 years. That is 13 federal elections.

Some of the 222 foreigners on the voter rolls were also voting. Nine individuals are recorded casting 12 ballots across 4 federal elections.

Chicago, not surprisingly, has similar problems. Chicago election records show 394 foreigners were cancelled from the rolls after they asked to be. Of course, too many of them voted.

Chicago officials provided registration records where some foreign nationals even checked "NO" to the question of whether the person is a United States citizen, and were still registered.

The Pennsylvania State Department admitted that due to what election officials referred to as a "glitch" that they had been accidentally registering foreign nationals to vote for two decades. They have been fighting for over five years to conceal details, including the number of foreign nationals the Commonwealth registered to vote by mistake.

It is not always a plot, either. The process can be as simple as a foreign national checking the wrong box or signing the wrong form handed to them by a government employee – sometimes they cannot fully understand the language.


The reports from Maricopa County and Chicago are not an inventory of every non-citizen vote, but only those who informed election officials they were not American citizens. So, the catalog of confessed non-citizens is almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg.

Foreign nationals contact election officials to be removed from the voter roll when they are in the process of naturalizing to become a U.S. citizen. The naturalization process requires foreign nationals to answer if they have been registered to vote. If they lie about this easily verifiable question, they scuttle their naturalization. Worse, they risk outright deportation.

Unfortunately, self-confessions represent the primary documents demonstrating the problem.

Nobody has a single database of citizens or foreigners that can be used for election administration -- not even the federal government. The Department of Homeland Security has a database of foreigners who have touched the immigration process, such as student visa holders, asylum seekers, green card applicants. But federal officials have failed to provide meaningful access to state election officials.

What can be done about non-citizens registering to vote?

Congress can solve the problem by allowing states to validate citizenship effectively. This could be as easy as providing a passport, birth certificate or other evidence of being an American at the time of voter registration.

Another easy fix is for Congress to add citizenship to the National Voter Registration Act's reasonable voter list maintenance requirements for states. Motor Voter does not put the same obligation for states to keep voter rolls free from non-citizens as it does, for example, dead voters.

We have learned a great deal about Motor Voter over the last three decades. The law profoundly changed American elections, yet it is showing signs of wear. It's time to modernize it.

J. Christian Adams is the President of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a former Justice Department attorney, and current commissioner on the United States Commission for Civil Rights.



As noncitizens cast ballots, 'Motor Voter' law needs reform



Editorials | May 30, 2023


Illegal immigrants and other noncitizens should not be voting in U.S. elections . Alas, too many do.

When Rep. Bob Livingston of Louisiana led Republican opposition to what was nicknamed the “Motor Voter” bill in 1993, he dubbed it “Auto Fraudo." Thirty years to the week after President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law, it seems an apt monicker, according to a May 23 report from the Public Interest Legal Foundation.

As PILF rightly argued, the Motor Voter law needs to be modified and updated. Its guarantees for greater transparency should be kept or even strengthened, and its loopholes allowing fraud should be closed.

The new report, the most recent in a series of PILF studies from across the country, showed that in the past 20 years in Chicago, 394 noncitizens were registered to vote despite properly telling election officials they were not citizens. Of those, 20 cast a total of 85 ballots in real elections. The average length of time that noncitizens stayed on the voter rolls before errors were caught was 7 1/2 years. One noncitizen was on the rolls for 30 years!



Mark your calendar. Join MFE's Zoom at Noon this Thursday, June 1.




It’s bad enough for these incidences to occur, but the numbers must substantially understate the problem. The report covers only those noncitizens who self-reported their status but were registered against Illinois law and arguably against the U.S. Constitution. Incentives weigh overwhelmingly against self-reporting, so it stands to reason that many multiples of the reported numbers are on Chicago's voter rolls.

This is not a problem unique to Chicago. PILF reported that Maricopa County, Arizona, has had 222 foreign nationals on voter rolls; Fairfax County, Virginia, 1,334; San Diego County 264; and there were 1,290 more in 10 other counties where records were examined. In Virginia overall, 5,556 noncitizens were removed from voter rolls, but only after 7,474 votes were cast illegally. These numbers are only a sampling, as PILF must do painstaking public information requests jurisdiction by jurisdiction — and its reports cover only the instances where the erroneous registrations and votes eventually, mercifully, were discovered and fixed by state officials.

As PILF’s Chicago report noted, Motor Voter is largely to blame. Among its provisions aimed at making voter registration easier, the one that provided the bill’s nickname was provided that people getting driver's licenses be registered to vote at the same time. Yet lots of noncitizens get licenses. Sometimes they don’t make it clear that they are not citizens. Sometimes registration officials fail to record it even when a foreign national properly notes it.

As PILF noted, “States that automate Motor Voter, not giving the immigrant the chance to decline registration during their DMV transactions, exacerbate the problem.” If a computer algorithm is set to put all newly licensed names and addresses on a voter list, foreign citizens appear to be eligible to cast ballots.

The situation is worse in the 18 states, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, that give driver’s licenses even to illegal immigrants. Many legal immigrants want clean records in the hope of becoming citizens, so they sometimes self-report. But illegal immigrants don't want to draw attention to their status, so almost none self-report when mistakenly put on the voter lists.

Finally, although PILF does not list this among its complaints — the 2002 Help America Vote Act helps mitigate the problem — Motor Voter further conceivably could exacerbate the problem because its provisions for registering to vote by mail include this prohibition : Mailed voter registration application forms “may not include any requirement for notarization or other formal authentication.”

So if a noncitizen registers by mail rather than in person, the application form is not even allowed to ask him or her to prove that the information he provides is correct. Then if the noncitizen also votes by mail rather than in person, he or she still never is forced to prove his or her identification.

Even if, in practice, this clause hasn’t been widely abused, it could lead to error or outright deceit.

Auto fraudo, indeed.


Come hear the honorable Professor William Wagner. PIME meeting in Stockbridge, June 10.


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