Maricopa County, Arizona, a lightning rod during recent elections, has removed 222 foreign nationals from the voter registration rolls over the past seven years, according to a new report from the Public Interest Legal Foundation, an election watchdog group.
Nine of those 222 noncitizens cast 12 ballots across a total of four federal elections, the legal foundation says.
The report arrives ahead of the 30th anniversary next month of the National Voter Registration Act, better known as the “Motor Voter Law.” The law allows Americans to register to vote when getting a driver’s license, usually at their local department of voter vehicles, or DMV.
The federal law also requires jurisdictions to maintain updated voter registration lists.
The number of noncitizens who were registered to vote in Maricopa County, which is Arizona’s most populous county, is a bellwether of national problems, said J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation.
“Motor Voter leads to problems for immigrants across America,” Adams said in a written statement. “Signing the wrong form at the DMV can haunt you years later when your naturalization process switches to deportation. For 30 years, foreign nationals have been getting registered to vote. Congress must modernize Motor Voter to reflect the technologies and demographics of today.”
Maricopa County was controversial in deciding whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden carried Arizona in the 2020 presidential race as who won the 2022 race for governor.
Five noncitizens voted in Maricopa in the 2020 election, according to the data, the most known noncitizen votes of any election cycle since 2015.
In 2021, the Arizona Senate sponsored an election audit of Maricopa that found numerous problems in the 2020 election, but ultimately determined that Biden defeated Trump in the county.
The average duration of a noncitizen’s voter registration was six years, according to the report by the Public Interest Legal Foundation. The longest period: 27 years. The most deletions of voters’ names occurred in 2015 and 2017, with 40 names removed from the rolls each year.
The Maricopa County Recorder’s Office works hard to verify proof of citizenship for voters, said Sierra Ciaramella, senior adviser for special projects and external affairs at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office.
“For voters that do not provide documentary proof of citizenship (DPOC), they still sign—under penalty of perjury—an affidavit on the voter registration form that they are citizens and eligible to register,” Ciaramella told The Daily Signal in an email, adding:
Unless MVD [Motor Vehicle Department] confirms their license is listed as foreign or SAVE (US Citizenship and Immigration Services case look-up tool) confirms foreign, we accept the registrant as federal only.
Also, our office receives jury duty notices from the courts when a voter self-reports as a noncitizen, resulting in further research and outreach from our team (as per the law). Under Recorder Stephen Richer’s leadership, we have made significant strides in cleaning up voter rolls.
Richer, a Republican, assumed office Jan. 1, 2021, for a four-year term, according to Ballotpedia.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation’s report says foreign nationals could check the wrong box on a form and inadvertently become a registered voter. Voter registration drives also can expose immigrants who don’t know better to sign up to vote, the report says.
“Foreign nationals typically expose themselves for one reason: They want to remain in the United States as future naturalized citizens,” the report says, continuing:
During that process, they face questions about premature registration and voting activities. If they have any records, they are often ordered by immigration officials to get said records canceled. These cancel requests generate paper trails, which inform PILF research.
No matter the disclosed sample size of government records or geographic location, most foreigners are registered through Motor Voter. The process can be as simple as checking the wrong box or signing the wrong form handed to you by a state employee—sometimes in a different language.
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