How did hundreds of noncitizens end up on Chicago’s voter rolls?
Hundreds of noncitizens have been kicked off Chicago’s voter rolls after admitting they were never supposed to have been registered in the first place, according to a new study that blames the Motor Voter law for how the names got added in the first place.
Since 2007, the city has removed 394 people from its voting lists after deciding they were actually foreign nationals who, under the law, are ineligible to vote.
City records show that 20 of the noncitizens did actually vote, casting a total of 85 ballots, according to data compiled by the Public Interest Legal Foundation.
That includes one person who stayed on the rolls for 30 years until the record was canceled.
The chief cause of the illegal registrations is Motor Voter, the nickname for 1993’s National Voter Registration Act. The idea was simple: Get more people signed up to vote by pushing them to register when they used a government service like obtaining a driver’s license.
Backers claimed success, as the voter rolls did jump.
But it also meant people who had no business registering also ended up on the lists.
Motor Voter turned 30 earlier this month and PILF said it is “showing signs of wear.”
“It has led to more transparency and federally mandated voter list maintenance of deceased and duplicate registrants. Unfortunately, it has led to thousands of foreign nationals registering to vote,” said PILF President J. Christian Adams. “Congress must update Motor Voter to fix this vulnerability in our elections.”
The report follows one earlier this year on Maricopa County in Arizona, where PILF found 222 noncitizens who have been kicked off the rolls since 2015.
PILF says that’s just the universe of people who admitted to being noncitizens. There is no way to know how many other noncitizens still lurk on the rolls that have not come forward.
Those who do come forward often do so when they seek citizenship and are prodded on whether they had ever registered or cast ballots in violation of the law. Lying on a citizenship application is a felony, which prompts a number of the noncitizens to come forward and admit what happened.
Voter registration cards offer two chances to assert citizenship. One is a Yes/No checkbox, and the other is the signature line, where the person is affirming to be a citizen.
Among the records PILF uncovered were registration cards where the person checked “No” but was still registered, presumably because officials only looked at the signature line. One of those cards, for a voter named Eiman, not only checked “No” but also gave a birth date of 2019 — clearly too young to be eligible to vote.
PILF said that person was on the voting rolls for a year before the matter was caught.
Even translating voting information into other languages doesn’t solve the issue. PILF found several cards in Spanish where the person checked the “No” box for citizenship and was still registered.
Max Bever, director of public information for Chicago’s Board of Elections, said they take wrong registrations seriously.
“Situations like this are always distressing to hear, especially since registering to vote as a noncitizen can lead to civil penalties and deportation for that individual,” Mr. Bever said. “As soon as the Chicago Board of Elections learns of any error related to citizenship status, the registration is canceled due to non-eligibility.”
He said the board does routinely check new registrations to confirm details, including how the citizenship box was checked. And he said any registrar who allowed a noncitizen to register would be fired.
Mr. Bever said the errors PILF identified in its report lie not with the city, but with the state, which handles applications that come in through Motor Voter.
The Washington Times reached out to the state Board of Elections for comment.
PILF’s report comes amid a national debate over voting rights and citizenship.
While federal law requires voters in federal elections to hold U.S. citizenship, some left-leaning jurisdictions have proposed allowing noncitizens to cast ballots in local elections.
States generally have moved the other way, with voters in several states approving referendums reserving the right to vote strictly for citizens.
Where the burden of proof lies, however, is still being fought out.
Arizona last year enacted a law requiring proof of citizenship before someone can vote in presidential elections. The Justice Department sued, arguing that went beyond the law, which only requires voters to attest to their citizenship.