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Does the U.S. Have a Problem with Illegal Non-Citizen Voting?

Alex Constantine - October 29, 2012

Does the U.S. Have a Problem with Illegal Non-Citizen Voting?

October 15, 2012

The short answer is yes, there are non-citizens voting, but in very small numbers, and less of a problem than other forms of voter fraud. In researching voter photo ID, which Cafe Con Leche Republicans supports, I also researched illegal voter registration and voting by non-citizens. Here I will attempt to put the problem into perspective.

Last night an Irish Central blog posting claiming massive problems with illegal voting by non-citizens caught my attention, prompting me to dig deeper. Similar claims usually turn out to be baseless or wildly overblown.

A network of organizations founded by population control progressive John Tanton often makes baseless claims about immigrants. Tanton founded or led more than 20 organizations that seek to reduce population growth from immigration. Tanton is the founder of the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform, NumbersUSA (with Roy Beck), Center for Immigration Studies, and held leadership positions in groups such as Zero Population Growth, Planned Parenthood, and environmental groups. Tanton’s organizations have a long history of making wildly inflated and false claims about immigration, in promoting their agenda.

Tanton is known to manipulate Republicans, stoking fears that immigrants invariably vote Democrat, which is nonsense. From a Tanton letter to a supporter:

The goal is to change Republicans’ perception of immigration so that when they encounter the word “immigrant,” their reaction is “Democrat.”

Our plan is to hire a lobbyist who will carry the following message to Republicans on Capitol Hill and to business leaders: Continued massive immigration will soon cost you political control of the White House and Congress, given the current, even division of the electorate, and the massive infusion of voters about to be made to the Democratic side. We are about to replay the Democratic hegemony of 1933-53, fueled back then by the massive immigration of 1890-1924.

From the Irish Central blog:

Colorado IDENTIFIED 12,000 illegal voters on its rolls and ascertained that 5,000 of them voted in the last election. The Republican Senate candidate was narrowly defeated by the Democrat….But how many illegal voters didn’t they identify?

The Colorado connection immediately caught my attention. In 2006, Governor Bill Owens called a special session of the legislature to pass laws to prevent 50,000 unauthorized immigrants from receiving tens of billions of dollars in welfare benefits. There was huge fanfare in the news media, and the legislature passed a tough set of laws to stop all those dastardly immigrants from sucking Colorado dry. Millions of dollars were spent auditing Colorado welfare rolls and licensing and not a single unauthorized immigrant was found receiving welfare benefits or licenses! There has hardly been any media coverage of the failure to find any unauthorized immigrants collecting welfare. No doubt many remember the initial hysteria, special session, etc. Numerous other states have audited their welfare rolls and found just a handful of unauthorized immigrants, if any.

Colorado has a long history of immigration hysteria, led by one of America’s leading xenophobes, Tom Tancredo. Not surprisingly, the claims of massive illegal voting by non-citizens proved to be vastly overblown as well. From the Denver Post:

At least 88 percent of the approximately 1,400 suspected non-citizens run through a federal database by the Colorado Secretary of State’s office were determined to be U.S. citizens, and are therefore eligible to vote.

The office is looking further at the remaining roughly 168 people, but that list may also include people who are citizens, said Michael Hagihara of the state’s elections division.

[...] the number of voters still in question equals less than one-hundredth of 1 percent of Colorado’s approximately 3.5 million registered voters.

Last May, the Miami Herald reported:

Nearly 2,700 potential non-U.S. citizens are registered to vote in Florida and some could have been unlawfully casting ballots for years, according to a Miami Herald-CBS4 analysis of elections data.

Earlier this month, the Tampa Bay Times reported:

U.S. District Judge Willam J. Zloch denied a request from a coalition of voting-rights groups to halt the purge of 198 potential non-citizens.

The Irish Central Blog claims that Loretta Sanchez was elected due to illegal non-citizen votes, when incumbent Bob Dornan lost by just 984 votes:

California lost a conservative congressman when his district was flooded with illegal alien votes. He was replaced with liberal Democrat, Loretta Sanchez.

However, a congressional panel soon whittled a list of 7,841 alleged illegal voters down to 624 after reviewing immigration records, then discontinued the probe since even if all 624 were indeed illegal voters that voted for Sanchez, that would not be enough to change the outcome. As explained later, it’s likely that at least some of the 624 voters were citizens but were flagged as non-citizens due to errors in immigration records, name confusion, etc.

From these and other stories, we can draw several conclusions:

• When politicians make claims of massive voting by non-citizens, it usually turns out to be wildly exaggerated. In all three cases mentioned, the actual numbers of illegal voters after a first pass review turned out to be around 10%, before delving deeper into individual cases.
• Politicians making these claims are usually relying on driving records, when a person may have been a non-citizen when they obtained their license, but later became a naturalized citizen and registered to vote. Drivers records aren’t automatically updated reflect their new citizenship until the driver renews, so without further review politicians often are misled and exaggerate the actual numbers.
 • Their first reaction is often to demand access to DHS databases. However, DHS databases only contain records of persons who were in the immigration system at some point, and to search a DHS immigration database one needs an alien “A” number. Native born citizens and unauthorized immigrants with and previous contact with DHS won’t be found in DHS immigration databases either.
 • Other times, DHS databases are simply in error. A recent study of Secure Communities found 3,600 U.S. Citizens who had been arrested and held as unauthorized immigrants, despite the use of fingerprints for accuracy.
 • There is no question that there are non-citizens who register and vote, either because they are confused about their lack of voting right or they simply break the law. As with any other illegal voters, they should certainly be held accountable. The numbers of non-citizens voting are very small, but there are always close races where even a handful of illegitimate votes can throw an election.

I am more concerned about voting by dead people, fraudulent voter registrations by non-existent persons, absentee ballot fraud, and multiple registrations, though all sources of vote fraud need to be addressed.

Election officials certainly should review records and purge voters who appear to be ineligible, and public confidence in our elections needs to be restored. Recent scandals have shaken the public’s confidence in the integrity of our elections.

However, because of strong possibility that a supposed non-citizen may in fact be a citizen, it is essential that voter purges follow a meticulous process, with adequate time for voters to contest purge decisions. No one should be denied their vote without due process.

This entry was posted on Monday, October 15th, 2012 at 10:13 pm and is filed under Myths About Immigrants, Voter ID, Voter Registration. Tags for this post: Bill Owens, Bob Dornan, Center for Immigration Studies, FAIR, Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform, John Tanton, Loretta Sanchez, NumbersUSA, Planned Parenthood, Secure Communities, Tom Tancredo, Willam J. Zloch, Zero Population Growth. 


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