Politics & Policy

Non-Citizens Are Voting

A Dem campaign manager in the latest Project Veritas video.
James O’Keefe documents the problem in North Carolina, where the Senate race is close.

Could non-citizen voting be a problem in next week’s elections, and perhaps even swing some very close elections?

A new study by two Old Dominion University professors, based on survey data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, indicated that 6.4 percent of all non-citizens voted illegally in the 2008 presidential election, and 2.2 percent in the 2010 midterms. Given that 80 percent of non-citizens lean Democratic, they cite Al Franken ’s 312-vote win in the 2008 Minnesota U.S. Senate race as one likely tipped by non-citizen voting. As a senator, Franken cast the 60th vote needed to make Obamacare law.

North Carolina features one of the closest Senate races in the country this year, between Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis. So what guerrilla filmmaker James O’Keefe, the man who has uncovered voter irregularities in states ranging from Colorado to New Hampshire, has learned in North Carolina is disturbing. This month, North Carolina officials found at least 145 illegal aliens, still in the country thanks to the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, registered to vote. Hundreds of other non-citizens may be on the rolls.

A voter-registration card is routinely issued without any identification check, and undocumented workers can use it for many purposes, including obtaining a driver’s license and qualifying for a job. And if a non-citizen has a voter-registration card, there are plenty of campaign operatives who will encourage him or her to vote illegally.

O’Keefe had a Brazilian-born immigrant investigator pose as someone who wanted to vote but was not a citizen. Greg Amick, the campaign manager for the Democrat running for sheriff in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), was only too happy to help.

Greg Amick: Here’s a couple of things you can do. You do not have to have your driver’s license, but do you have any sort of identification?

Project Veritas investigator: But I do have my driver’s license.

Amick: Oh, you do. Show ’em that and you’re good.

PV: But the only problem, you know, I don’t want to vote if I’m not legal. I think that’s going to be a problem. I’m not sure.

Amick: It won’t be, it shouldn’t be an issue at all.

PV: No?

Amick: As long as you are registered to vote, you’ll be fine.

But North Carolina officials shouldn’t be “fine” with Amick, who appears to be afoul of a state law making it a felony “for any person, knowing that a person is not a citizen of the United States, to instruct or coerce that person to register to vote or to vote.”

#page#The anything-goes attitude towards non-citizen voting crosses party lines. A campaign worker for the Republican running against Amick’s candidate for sheriff even called her boss before telling the O’Keefe investigator that it was for fine for non-citizens to vote: “Welcome aboard.”

Martin Kelly, whose son is running as a Democrat for superior-court judge in Mecklenburg, was blasé when asked whether non-citizens could vote. Kelly: “If you registered . . . [shrugs shoulders]. All they can do is say no. They can’t do anything else.”

Hans von Spakovsky, my co-author on a book we wrote on voter fraud in 2012, was in Charlotte on Monday for an NPR town hall on voting issues. “The local audience seemed skeptical that anyone in their state would be willing to commit fraud despite prior incidents,” he told me. “The O’Keefe video shows just how naïve they were.”

It’s no wonder that the two Old Dominion professors concluded that non-citizen votes may have been responsible for Obama’s 2008 victory in North Carolina. “Obama won the state by 14,177 votes, so a turnout by 5.1 percent of North Carolina’s adult non-citizens would have provided this victory margin.”

The authors’ paper is consistent with other credible reports of non-citizen voting. For example, Colorado’s Republican secretary of state, Scott Gessler, unveiled a study in 2011 showing that almost 5,000 illegal aliens cast votes in the U.S. Senate election in that state in 2010.

In 2005, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that up to 3 percent of the 30,000 people called for jury duty from voter-registration rolls over a two-year period in one of the 94 current U.S. district courts were non-citizens.

In 2012, a local NBC station in Fort Myers, Fla., found that at least 100 individuals in one county had been excused from jury duty because they were not citizens but were registered to vote. Hinako Dennett, who is not a citizen, told the station that she voted “every year.”

A 1996 congressional race in California may have been stolen by non-citizen voting. Democrat Loretta Sanchez won by only 979 votes, and an investigation by the House Committee on Oversight turned up 624 invalid ballots cast by non-citizens who were on federal immigration records, along with 124 improper absentee ballots. The committee found “circumstantial” evidence of 196 additional non-citizen votes that it did not include in its tally. Its investigation could not determine the number of illegal-alien votes that might have been cast: “If there is a significant number of ‘documented aliens’ in INS records and on the Orange County voter registration rolls, how many illegal or undocumented aliens may be registered to vote in Orange County?”

An accurate assessment of the magnitude of non-citizen voting is difficult. There is no systematic check of voter-registration rolls by states to find non-citizens, and the relevant federal agencies refuse — in direct violation of federal law — to cooperate with those few state election officials who attempt to verify citizenship status.

In declining to cooperate with a request by Maryland for information on the citizenship status of registered voters, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service mistakenly declared that the agency could not release that data because “it is important to safeguard the confidentiality of each legal immigrant.” One result of this policy: In 2004, a guilty verdict in a murder trial in Maryland was jeopardized because a non-citizen was discovered on the jury, which had been drawn from local voter rolls. Maryland’s frustrated elections administrator complained, “There is no way of checking. . . . We have no access to any information about who is in the United States, legally or otherwise.”

Some states have tried to take action. Kansas and Arizona have put in place new commonsense proof-of-citizenship requirements for registration to prevent illegal voting. But activist groups such as the League of Women Voters and Common Cause routinely challenge such measures in the courts.

To demand compliance with our laws — all of our laws — requires no more of an alien than we demand of any citizen. It is a violation of both state and federal law for immigrants who are not citizens to vote. The violations effectively disenfranchise legitimate voters by diluting their votes. We can show respect for the rights of those within our borders and at the same time prevent people from violating our voting laws either through willful intent or because they were led astray by others.

— John Fund is national-affairs correspondent for NRO and co-author, with Hans von Spakovsky, of Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk.

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