Bench Memos

Political Scientists: Significant Illegal Voting by Non-Citizens

On the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog, political scientists Jesse Richman and David Earnest of Old Dominion University present the jarring results of a new study (access restricted) that they are publishing in the journal Electoral Studies:

How many non-citizens participate in U.S. elections? More than 14 percent of non-citizens in both the 2008 and 2010 samples indicated that they were registered to vote. Furthermore, some of these non-citizens voted. Our best guess, based upon extrapolations from the portion of the sample with a verified vote, is that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent of non-citizens voted in 2010.

Further:

Because non-citizens tended to favor Democrats (Obama won more than 80 percent of the votes of non-citizens in the 2008 CCES sample), we find that this participation was large enough to plausibly account for Democratic victories in a few close elections. Non-citizen votes could have given Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health-care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) won election in 2008 with a victory margin of 312 votes. Votes cast by just 0.65 percent of Minnesota non-citizens could account for this margin

It’s also noteworthy that Richman and Earnest find that voter ID laws appear to be “strikingly ineffective”:

Nearly three quarters of the non-citizens who indicated they were asked to provide photo identification at the polls claimed to have subsequently voted.

I of course don’t mean to present the Richmond/Earnest conclusions (which they themselves emphasize are based on a “modest” sample and thus have the “attendant uncertainty associated with sampling error”) as the definitive word on the matter, and I look forward to reading their full study as well as any critiques of it. But if noncitizens (and other persons ineligible to vote) are in fact voting, I would hope that everyone would agree that an effective response to the problem is necessary.

Update: According to Michael Tesler, another blogger at Monkey Cage, “it appears that a substantial number of self-reported non-citizens inaccurately reported their (non)citizenship status in the CCES surveys.” Tesler concludes that the CCES is “probably not an appropriate data source for testing” claims of voting by non-citizens.​

 

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