Politics & Policy

Why Do Some Election Officials Want to Hide Evidence of Non-Citizen Voting?

Arcan Cetin at his arraignment in Mt. Vernon, Wash., September 26, 2016. (Reuters photo: Karen Ducey)
Here’s a little clue: About 80 percent of non-citizen voters vote . . . Democratic.

Update: After this piece was published, the local news source that had originally reported Arcan Cetin’s not being a citizen issued a correction. Cetin is in fact a naturalized U.S. Citizen. The original piece is below.

Arcan Cetin faces five counts of murder after his shooting rampage at a Seattle-area mall last week. But he also turns out to be a non-citizen who has voted three times in state elections since 2014. Liberals claim non-citizen voting fraud is extremely rare, but Cetin’s case should cast light on both just how easy it is to commit and the efforts of federal and state officials to block efforts to uncover it.

Cetin, who is from Turkey, is a legal resident of the United States but not a citizen. In 2014, he registered to vote and voted three times, most recently in May’s presidential primary. Washington State, like all but a handful of states, doesn’t require any proof of citizenship. “Our hands are kind of tied,” Secretary of State Kim Wyman told a Seattle TV station, noting that the state doesn’t allow verification of a person’s citizenship for voting purposes. “But make no mistake,” she adds. “We want to make sure that everybody has confidence that people casting ballots are eligible. This is certainly going to be a topic at the next legislative session.” Local registrars can currently use a database to check the age and residence of people who register to vote, but a person’s claim to be a citizen is based on the honor system.

The problem is that not all non-citizens are honorable — or they may be led astray in being told they can vote. In our 2012 book Who’s Counting: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk​, Hans von Spakovsky and I noted numerous cases of non-citizen registration and voting all over the country.

In 2014, a study released by three professors at Old Dominion University and George Mason University, based on survey data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, estimated that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted illegally in the 2008 presidential election and that 2.2 percent voted in the 2010 midterm congressional elections.

Since 80 percent of non-citizens vote Democratic, according to the study, non-citizen participation could have “been large enough to change meaningful election outcomes including Electoral College votes [in North Carolina in 2008], and congressional elections,” such as the 2008 race in Minnesota in which Al Franken was elected to the U.S. Senate, giving Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote to pass Obamacare.

The authors’ paper is consistent with other credible reports of non-citizen voting. In 2005, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that up to 3 percent of the 30,000 people who were 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. Many had also voted in some elections.

But federal agencies refuse — in direct violation of federal law — to provide citizenship data to state election officials who attempt to verify citizenship status. Kansas and Arizona have put in place new commonsense proof-of-citizenship requirements for registration to prevent illegal voting, but they have been fought tooth and nail by Obama’s Justice Department. The DOJ is even using strong-arm methods to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the right of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to allow states to require proof of citizenship when registering. Rather than fulfill its duty to represent a federal agency, the DOJ is siding with the League of Women Voters and the NAACP in the case. A federal judge, Richard Leon, has already been rebuked by the DOJ for its “unprecedented” and “extraordinary” refusal to defend a federal agency and its decision instead to side with the plaintiffs suing it.

Take Virginia, where last year Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would have required jury commissioners to forward information to election officials on individuals who were excused from jury duty for not being a citizen. Then James Alcorn, one of McAuliffe’s two Democratic appointees on the Virginia Board of Elections, proposed that rules be changed so that people who left the citizenship question unanswered on the voter-registration form would still be allowed to register. A few years ago, the Fairfax County Electoral Board found close to 300 non-citizens who had illegally registered, about half of whom had also illegally voted in prior elections. No action was taken to prosecute any of those non-citizens.

In Alexandria, Va., local officials could be involved in a cover-up. The Virginia Voters Alliance filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming that the general registrar, Anna Leider, was violating the National Voter Registration Act.The lawsuit charged that Leider failed to make available for public inspection her records related to the city’s voter-list maintenance procedures, records that would obviously include all information about the removal of ineligible voters.

As a result of the lawsuit, the Alliance was finally able to inspect the voter-registration records. Among the items they discovered was a list containing several hundred registrants who had been removed from the voter rolls because they were not U.S. citizens. So far not a single one has been prosecuted for violating the law. And they were caught only because they told the truth when they renewed their driver’s licenses, admitting they were not citizens.

How many non-citizens on the voter rolls don’t make that confession?

When the Alliance asked to photocopy this document, Leider refused. Her attorney said that the state election board was blocking her from releasing that information, a clear violation of federal law.

It has been estimated that in some Virginia counties, some 40 percent of non-citizen registered voters have voted in at least one election.

But other counties were more forthcoming with the Alliance’s requests. In Prince William County, officials produced a list of more than 400 non-citizens who had been removed from the county’s voter rolls. In rural Bedford County, officials gave the Alliance a list of several dozen non-citizens who had been removed from the voter rolls. After the Alliance received the list, the Public Interest Legal Foundation received a telephone call from the Bedford County registrar asking the Alliance to either return or delete the list. She said that Virginia state election officials had contacted her and informed her that she shouldn’t have sent the Alliance the list of removed non-citizens.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) has taken up the case and is about to release a full report on the scope of the problem across Virginia. It will also reveal its discovery of hundreds of non-citizens registered to vote in Philadelphia. “There is an active effort to hide the significant voting activity of non-citizens in key swing states,” PILF’s president, Christian Adams, told me. He estimates that in some of the Virginia counties he’s examined, some 40 percent of non-citizen registered voters have voted in at least one election. Virginia has seen two statewide races for attorney general decided by fewer than 1,000 votes in just the last decade.

#related#“Instances of non-citizens attempting to cast a ballot are extremely rare,” the liberal group Project Vote says on its website. “But this drummed-up fear has real consequences: It excludes legitimate voters.” Clearly, though, the potential for non-citizen voting exists. If it didn’t, why are so many officials hiding evidence that would help us establish its extent? As former Democratic senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut said, “We can both make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.” Indeed. We can both show respect for the rights of those within our borders and at the same time prevent people from violating our voting laws and canceling out the votes of legitimate voters.


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