More than 30 years after the federal “motor voter law” passed, foreign nationals and noncitizens have managed to register and vote in U.S. elections across the country, while many states and counties have more registered voters than residents.
Now, a House election-reform bill would allow states to require proof of citizenship—which the Supreme Court previously prevented as a violation of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act.
Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala., said it’s “common sense” that states at least have the option to require proof of citizenship to ensure only American citizens are voting. He introduced a stand-alone bill, the Citizen Ballot Protection Act, in June.
This month, the language from Palmer’s bill was added to a House Republican omnibus election-reform measure, the American Confidence in Elections Act. The bill was approved by the House Administration Committee and is headed to the House floor.
“It may move as an individual bill. It’s also part of a bigger package that will move probably in September,” Palmer told The Daily Signal.
The stand-alone legislation could be voted on before the American Confidence in Elections Act goes to the floor in the fall, said Palmer, the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee.
The National Voter Registration Act, commonly referred to as the “motor voter law,” requires states to update their voter-registration lists, to ensure that people who have died or moved away from a jurisdiction are removed from the rolls.
However, many jurisdictions have failed to do so, Palmer said. He made additional proposals that also made it into the American Confidence in Elections Act. The Alabama lawmaker made other proposals about cleaning up the voter-registration lists.
“Judicial Watch got a consent decree against Los Angeles County, where they had about 1.5 million more people registered to vote than lived in the county who were old enough and registered to vote,” Palmer said. “The state of Michigan, for instance, is 105% registered to vote. There are 16 counties that are over 110% registered to vote. This is a massive, massive problem. In Pennsylvania, there are over 800,000 inactive voters still on their voter files. Both of those bills are part of the bigger package.”
He added, “When you have a county that is over 110% registered to vote, the opportunity for election fraud is substantially greater.”
As noted in my book, “The Myth of Voter Suppression,” a 2012 Pew Center on the States study found more than 1.8 million dead people were still registered to vote, and 2.75 million people were registered in more than one state, while more than 70,000 were registered to vote in three or more states. Further, the study estimated about 12.7 million voting records nationwide appeared to be out of date and no longer reflected a voter’s current information.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation, an election integrity group, found in a June report that North Carolina had 1,454 registered voters who were not naturalized citizens before Election Day 2014. Of those, 89 attempted to vote.
In a May report, the legal foundation found that of the 394 people in Chicago canceled from the voter-registration rolls because they were not U.S. citizens, 20 had cast 80 ballots. That was not a full inventory of noncitizens voting, but only those who had informed Chicago election officials they weren’t American citizens.
“The prohibition on checking citizenship is the No. 1 problem with the ‘motor voter law’ is that needs to be fixed,” J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, told The Daily Signal. “It’s no accident. Democrats did not want states to be able to require proof of citizenship. The compromise was a check-box saying you were a citizen. We have demonstrated that the check-box doesn’t work.”
The legal foundation contends reforms are needed to the “motor voter law.” The federal law requires no documentary proof of U.S. citizenship when registering at the same time as getting a driver’s license. The voter-registration forms don’t include Social Security numbers, which makes it impossible to use E-Verify.
A 2018 study by the legal foundation found Maricopa County, Arizona, had 222 foreign nationals on voter rolls; Fairfax County, Virginia, had 1,334 foreign nationals listed as registered to vote; and San Diego County in California had 264 registered foreign nationals.
In 2013—or 20 years after the “motor voter law”—the Supreme Court ruled Arizona could not require documentary proof of citizenship under the law. The Palmer proposal amends the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to give states the ability to verify the citizenship status of voters when they register.
The “motor voter law” also requires states to accept and use the U.S. Election Assistance Commission federal mail voter-registration application form.
Palmer’s proposal establishes the option for states to add a proof of citizenship requirement to their mail voter-registration form. He contends that respects and upholds the role of states to administer federal elections, gives states the option to add more security to their voter-registration process, and allows states that have proof-of-citizenship requirements to streamline their registration process so both their version of the federal mail voter-registration form and the state’s regular voter-registration form can have the same review process.
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