Im­mi­grants find nonci­t­i­zen voter reg­is­tra­tion easy

Some ad­mit to cast­ing bal­lots

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Ab­del showed up at his lo­cal Penn­syl­va­nia mo­tor ve­hi­cle of­fice to take his driver’s li­cense test — and walked out hav­ing reg­is­tered to vote, even though he is not a cit­i­zen.

He said his com­mand of English isn’t good and the com­puter sys­tem was un­clear, but he some­how man­aged to sign up even though he knew he shouldn’t.

Then there was An­gelo, who fig­ured he could vote be­cause he joined the U.S. mil­i­tary, even though he wasn’t a cit­i­zen. He, too, signed up at the Penn­syl­va­nia mo­tor ve­hi­cle bureau and reg­is­tered as a Demo­crat. He then voted nearly ev­ery year from 2001 through 2014.

He fi­nally wrote to Al­legheny County ask­ing to be stricken from the rolls, say­ing he had been in­el­i­gi­ble all along.

An­gelo and Ab­del are some of the more than 130 peo­ple the county has nixed from its voter lists in re­cent years af­ter dis­cov­er­ing they weren’t U.S. ci­ti­zens and should never have been al­lowed to reg­is­ter, much less vote, ac­cord­ing to a re­port be­ing re­leased Thurs­day from the Pub­lic In­ter­est Le­gal Foun­da­tion.

Of those, nearly 40 went on to vote in elec­tions be­fore they were re­moved from the lists, the foun­da­tion found.

The vast ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple re­ported them­selves only when they did try to seek cit­i­zen­ship or some other im­mi­gra­tion ben­e­fit — and learned that il­le­gal reg­is­tra­tion or vot­ing, both felonies, could be hur­dles for their ap­pli­ca­tions.

J. Chris­tian Adams, pres­i­dent of the Pub­lic In­ter­est Le­gal Foun­da­tion, said it’s im­pos­si­ble to say how many oth­ers haven’t been caught be­cause they haven’t re­ported them­selves.

“There’s no doubt that there is far more and far worse. These are just the peo­ple who wrote in

[say­ing], ‘Since I’m not a cit­i­zen, take me off the roll.’ These are the peo­ple who wanted to fix it,” he said. “If you deny this is hap­pen­ing, you’re part of the prob­lem at this point.”

In­deed, while it’s not the mas­sive level of fraud that Pres­i­dent Trump com­plained about last year, the 139 cases in one county in one state are more than the near-zero level that the pres­i­dent’s crit­ics have pos­tu­lated. One lo­cal of­fi­cial in Penn­syl­va­nia has es­ti­mated that 100,000 il­le­git­i­mate vot­ers are on the state’s rolls, thanks to prob­lems with Pen­nDOT’s sys­tem and its in­abil­ity to weed out fraud.

Mud­died lists

Un­der the 1993 fed­eral “mo­tor voter” law, peo­ple who show up to re­new li­censes or trans­act other busi­ness at mo­tor ve­hi­cle bu­reaus are sup­posed to be asked if they want to reg­is­ter to vote. The form re­lies on the honor sys­tem for peo­ple to swear they are ci­ti­zens.

The goal of the law was to boost elec­tion par­tic­i­pa­tion — but it also mud­died vot­ing lists.

Al­legheny County of­fi­cials spot­ted ev­i­dence of the prob­lem as far back as 2008 and alerted state of­fi­cials. The Pub­lic In­ter­est Le­gal Foun­da­tion said there is no ev­i­dence that the state cor­rected the mis­takes or alerted lo­cal of­fi­cials that they may have thou­sands of bo­gus reg­is­tra­tions on their lists.

State of­fi­cials didn’t pro­vide a re­sponse to The Wash­ing­ton Times by dead­line.

They dis­puted the 100,000 num­ber this year, but they also ac­knowl­edged there were some prob­lems by send­ing no­tices to 7,702 reg­is­tered vot­ers ques­tion­ing whether they were in fact el­i­gi­ble to vote.

The nonci­t­i­zen vot­ers iden­ti­fied in the foun­da­tion’s re­port de­scribed how easy it was to get listed in the first place.

Ab­del, whose last name was redacted in the re­port, reg­is­tered in 2009 and then re­al­ized his mis­take when a voter ID ap­peared in the mail. With the help of his wife and at­tor­ney, he fired off a let­ter say­ing the Pen­nDOT com­puter’s in­struc­tions were in English and, since he didn’t have a good grasp of the lan­guage, he “did not com­pre­hend that I was reg­is­ter­ing to vote.”

Tu­ran reg­is­tered in 2009 as a Demo­crat and then quickly can­celed, say­ing he was stunned that the mo­tor ve­hi­cles bureau staffer en­cour­aged him to sign up.

“I don’t speak English nor am I NOT A Cit­i­zen![sic]” he said in a let­ter he dic­tated to his son. “She should not of­fer any vot­ing reg­is­tra­tion to any for­eign per­son who doesn’t speak English.”

Sev­eral nonci­t­i­zens said state em­ploy­ees gave them the im­pres­sion that their reg­is­tra­tion was just an ap­pli­ca­tion and fig­ured some­one would ver­ify their an­swers to de­ter­mine whether they were el­i­gi­ble.

Fol­low­ing pol­icy

Mark Wolosik, the man­ager of Al­legheny County’s elec­tions di­vi­sion, said that some­one isn’t him. He said he is just fol­low­ing state pol­icy when he ap­proves all the ap­pli­ca­tions that come to him.

In a state­ment to The Wash­ing­ton Times, he also said it’s not his job to po­lice the peo­ple he later learns had voted fraud­u­lently. He said he fig­ured the fed­eral cit­i­zen­ship agency would do that.

“The in­for­ma­tion/self-re­port­ing came through the ap­pli­ca­tion for cit­i­zen­ship and, as such, that in­for­ma­tion and de­tails is al­ready in the hands of any agency which would pur­sue such pros­e­cu­tion,” he said in his state­ment.

His ex­pla­na­tion, though, doesn’t track with the county’s doc­u­ments, which show some of the cases were re­ported di­rectly to him and weren’t prompted by the fed­eral cit­i­zen­ship agency.

Mr. Adams said it doesn’t mat­ter how he learned about them and that Mr. Wolosik should feel a duty to re­port elec­tion law­break­ers.

“State elec­tions of­fi­cials are ab­di­cat­ing their re­spon­si­bil­ity as cus­to­di­ans of the elec­tion sys­tem,” Mr. Adams said.

He said he had to bat­tle Al­legheny County for the reg­is­tra­tion data, and he is still in­volved in a le­gal fight with the state for a broader set of in­for­ma­tion. He said that rather than work­ing against him, they should be work­ing with him to clean up their records.

“The bet­ter ap­proach for the lo­cal and state elec­tion of­fi­cials is to say we’ve got a prob­lem and we want to fix it. But Penn­syl­va­nia and ev­ery elec­tion of­fi­cial I’ve seen in that state is in a state of de­nial,” Mr. Adams said.

The Al­legheny County re­port, ti­tled “Steel­ing the Vote,” joins sim­i­lar Pub­lic In­ter­est Le­gal Foun­da­tion re­ports on nonci­t­i­zen reg­is­tra­tion in Vir­ginia and New Jer­sey. The foun­da­tion is also in­volved in le­gal bat­tles with of­fi­cials in Texas and Cal­i­for­nia to get a look at their data.

The re­port found that the nonci­t­i­zens in Al­legheny County re­mained on the rolls an av­er­age of six years be­fore they were re­moved.

Of the 139 bo­gus vot­ers, 74 reg­is­tered as Democrats and just 23 signed up as Repub­li­cans. The oth­ers were un­de­clared or iden­ti­fied with a third party.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

An es­ti­mated 100,000 il­le­git­i­mate vot­ers are on Penn­syl­va­nia’s rolls be­cause of mo­tor ve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem prob­lems and an in­abil­ity to weed out fraud, the Pub­lic In­ter­est Le­gal Foun­da­tion has found.

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