Noncitizens are on voter registration lists all over the country. In Ohio, a key battleground state with millions of registered voters third party group registrations occur without the presence of election officials. Only four states – Kansas, Arizona, Georgia and Alabama – require documentary proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. The other 46 states require no such proof of citizenship and face considerably greater vulnerability to the problems caused by Obama’s actions.
By Jay O’Callaghan l March 2, 2015
Recent congressional testimony by election officials reveals that President Obama’s executive actions granting amnesty to almost six million illegal immigrants could add many ineligible voters to our nation’s already bloated voter registration rolls. The Obama Administration granted deferred action to approximately 1.8 million illegal aliens in 2012 (who entered the U.S. before the age of 16) and last November it extended the same executive amnesty to another estimated 4 million illegal aliens.
As Ohio Secretary of State John Husted testified before a joint session of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security and Subcommittee onHealthcare, Benefits and Administrative Rules, “I am here to emphatically say that we cannot follow both the federal law and the executive action and ensure the integrity of the elections process.”
He added that the President’s actions provide access to Social Security numbers and driver’s licenses to millions of these aliens. These are the same documents that federal law requires the states to recognize as valid forms of identification for voter registration. Under federal law, anyone with a valid Social Security number or driver’s license number can register to vote, provided they attest that they are a U.S. citizen. However, there is no way to validate this citizenship statement, since under the executive actions previously “undocumented non-citizens” will have access to the same documents as U.S. citizens.
Husted has asked President Obama to provide state election officials with real-time access to accurate, searchable, electronic databases of noncitizens who have valid Social Security numbers. This would allow them to prevent illegal registrations, and “more importantly, reassure the public that steps have been taken to ensure only eligible voters are participating in federal, state and local elections.”
Ohio is a key battleground state with millions of registered voters, many of them registered by third party groups, with no election official present to make clear the eligibility requirements for voting. After the 2012 Presidential election, Husted’s office found through driver’s license information that 291 non-citizens were registered to vote and 17 had actually cast ballots. Husted is now very concerned that “these executive actions could significantly increase the potential pool of illegal registrations in Ohio and around the country.”
Federal law limits how states can maintain their voter rolls, in some cases prohibiting states from removing a voter from the rolls until they have been inactive for two consecutive federal general elections. That means that when evidence suggests that a person is a non-citizen on the rolls state officials cannot remove them immediately.
Only four States – Kansas, Arizona, Georgia, and Alabama – require documentary proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. The other 46 states require no such proof of citizenship and face considerably greater vulnerability to the problems caused by Obama’s actions. However, even the four states that require proof of citizenship are vulnerable, due to a recent decision of the Election Assistance Commission that allows registrants to use the federal voter registration form to avoid proving their citizenship.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach told the subcommittee that “the Administration’s executive actions will result in a large number of additional aliens registering to vote throughout the country, in violation of state and federal law. These are irreversible consequences, because once an alien registers to vote, it is virtually impossible to detect him and remove him from the list of registered voters.”
Heritage Foundation election law expert Hans Van Spakovsky also testified before a joint hearing of the two subcommittees. Van Spakovsky has an extensive background in election law including serving as a Justice Department federal election lawyer, a member of the Federal Election Commission, and a local elections official in both Georgia and Virginia.
He reported that already noncitizens are on voter registration lists all over the country. In 2005, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that up to 3 percent of the 30,000 individuals called for jury duty from voter registration rolls in just one U.S. district court were not U.S. citizens. While that may not seem like many, that would have been more than enough to provide the winning presidential vote margin in Florida in 2000.
Van Spakovsky said that Obama’s action “will greatly exacerbate the problems associated with noncitizens and elections just given the sheer numbers of new individuals who will be given a quasi-legal status to be present – and working – in the United States… as a result, it may be extremely difficult for election officials to prevent or detect those noncitizens who intentionally or negligently affirm their eligibility to vote on voter registration forms and vote in local, state and federal elections using their newly-obtained identification documents.”
Here are some of the reforms he supports to prevent noncitizens from registering and voting illegally in state and federal elections:
- All states should require anyone who registers to vote to provide proof of U.S. citizenship and Congress should make it clear that federal law does not prohibit such a requirement;
- Congress and state legislatures should require all federal and state courts to notify local election officials when individuals summoned for jury duty from voter registration rolls are excused because they are not United States citizens;
- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should work with the states to develop a more accessible system to verify the citizenship of registrants than the present slow and cumberson SAVE system;
- Congress should investigate whether DHS is granting citizenship or deferred status to aliens who have illegally registered or voted in past elections. Such aliens should not be eligible for citizenship or deferred status. They should be referred to the Justice Department for prosecution and removal, as well as to the relevant state election officials so that they can be struck from the registration rolls;
- A voter registration card should not be accepted as a valid identifying document to obtain a driver’s license or for identification under federal employment rules unless states have implemented proof-of-citizenship requirements for voter registration.
These are indeed necessary and important reforms that are critical to both the integrity of the American election process and the future of the nation.
Jay O’Callaghan has worked extensively with issues involving the U.S. Census Bureau including serving as a professional staff member for the House Government Reform Census Subcommittee, as a senior legislative analyst for the Florida House of Representatives Redistricting Committee and for two U.S. House members. He is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.