The Washington Post created a stir last week when it published a piece by two political scientists that revealed the findings from their study on non-citizen voting. Using some survey data, they found that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent voted in 2010.
These numbers are admittedly small, but they are not inconsequential. The Kaiser Family Foundation has a chart estimating the non-citizen share of the population in each state. Using this we can estimate what share of the vote next Tuesday will be cast by non-citizens in each state using the political scientists’ findings.
Florida is the state most at risk of having a close election decided by non-citizen votes. According the to KFF site, 9 percent of Florida residents are non-citizens. Assuming that accurately reflects the non-citizen share of Florida adults, that means between .58 and .20 percent of the total votes will be cast by non-citizens. To put it starkly, if 2014 turnout is the same as 2010 turnout (5.36 million), that means between 11,000 and 31,000 ballots will be cast by non-citizens. That’s a huge number for a race that currently is forecast to be virtually a dead heat.
Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Georgia also bear close watching. The KFF site pegs the noncitizen share of the population at 7 (Conn., Mass.) or 6 (Colo., Ga.) percent. That means a minimum of .13 percent of the vote will be cast by non-citizens, if the study is correct. Using 2010 turnout numbers as a baseline, that means a minimum of between 3,350 (Georgia) and 1,500 (Connecticut) votes will be cast in each state. These are very tiny numbers, but the Connecticut governor’s race was decided by only 6,400 votes in 2010 and the polls so far forecast an even tighter contest this year.
The study’s authors note that their research is preliminary, and there are many reasons that simply taking their national findings and applying them to specific states is problematic. It is, though, problematic in both directions: Non-citizens in a specific state could vote at higher or lower rates than the national average. That is cold comfort to a candidate who wonders next Wednesday if a rightful victory was stolen by illegal voting, no matter how benign or uncoordinated the voter’s action might have been.
— Henry Olsen is a senior fellow with the Ethics and Public Policy Center.