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Noncitizens to register to vote under Democrats’ bill, conservatives warn

Noncitizens to register to vote under Democrats’ bill, conservatives warn

by Rowan Scarborough | The Washington Times  |  Published on March 15, 2021

The Democrats’ election overhaul bill will result in registering noncitizens as new voters even though those U.S. residents are prohibited by federal law from doing so, conservative groups contend.

This is because H.R. 1 disempowers the 50 states’ election management roles and orders them to automatically register new voters, not from voluntary applications but from millions of names held by various federal agencies.

Given the number of federal spigots from which the names will flow, conservatives say, it is only logical to assume that some of the nation’s 21.7 million noncitizens will be registered. Polling shows that tens of thousands are likely registered now, they say.

“We don’t even have to make that assumption, given the bill’s own safety nets,” Logan Churchwell, director of research for the Public Interest Legal Foundation, told The Washington Times. “Noncitizens are already coming through on a voluntary system nationwide.

“Every foreign national with a visa and a need ranging from a driver’s license to public college credits bears the risk of automatically becoming registered to vote without their permission,” Mr. Churchwell said. “Universal automatic registration carries risks of system failure for citizens and immigrants alike.”

The bill’s backers point out that citizenship status is among the information federal agencies must provide — in theory removing the possibility of unlawful voting.

The proposed 886-page law mandates agencies to turn over “information showing that the individual is a citizen of the United States.” All auto-registered voters eventually will be notified that they are on their local precinct rolls. The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services is to turn over only the names of those who have completed naturalization.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, now a distinguished visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation, wrote in the conservative think tank’s The Daily Signal that millions of noncitizens could register under H.R. 1.

The fact-checking website Politifact.com labeled that assessment “false.” It said, “H.R. 1 does not change federal law which states that only eligible citizens can vote in federal elections. The goal of the legislation is to make it easier for eligible citizens to register.”

Mr. Churchwell, though, wonders why the law also grants legal immunity to illegal registrants if the bill’s safeguards are foolproof.

“Their faith in that qualification filter is severely hedged by the civil and criminal safety nets,” he said.

This is a reference to Section 1015, titled “Protections for Errors in Registration.” It states: “An individual shall not be prosecuted under any Federal or State law, adversely affected in any civil adjudication concerning immigration status or naturalization, or subject to an allegation in any legal proceeding that the individual is not a citizen of the United States.”

James D. Agresti, who runs the fact-checking firm Just Facts and has studied noncitizen voting data, said the bill “worsens the current situation by further opening the doors to illegal voting.”

Conservatives say tens of thousands of noncitizens are already on rosters illegally, according to some polls, even though states warn applicants that they must be citizens to register.

Jesse Richman, a political science professor at Old Dominion University, shook up the liberal establishment by issuing a series of postelection reports estimating that tens of thousands of noncitizens vote, including in 2016 when Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.

He bases his numbers on extensive surveys contained in the Harvard University Cooperative Congressional Elections Study. However, the Harvard professors who conduct the study reject Mr. Richman’s methodology.

Mr. Richman’s 2016 election analysis estimated that 6.4% of noncitizens voted in 2016, giving 834,318 votes to Mrs. Clinton. She won the popular vote by 2.8 million votes.

H.R. 1 directs the states to receive personal data from the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Defense Department, the Department of Labor, the Department of Health of Human Services and any other agency a state designates.

Mr. Churchwell said he expects liberal groups to file lawsuits to force other federal agencies to turn over names.

“Don’t laugh when a methadone clinic dependent on public funds gets sued to participate,” he said.

One survey found that more than 50 million voter-eligible Americans don’t register. The Pew Research Center found that nearly half say they simply don’t want to vote. Eighty million eligible adults did not vote in 2020.

The Heritage Foundation issued talking points on H.R. 1: “H.R. 1 interferes with states’ abilities to determine qualifications for voters and destroys the accuracy of voter registration rolls.” States will be required to automatically add to voter registration rolls every person, regardless of eligibility, who partakes in certain government programs such as receiving welfare or obtaining a driver’s license, the conservative think tank says. Other provisions of H.R. 1 then restrict the ability of states to verify eligible voters and remove ineligible voters from their registration rolls. This provision will automatically enroll ineligible voters such as illegal aliens, the foundation says.

In its first year, the Trump administration attempted to settle the debate. President Trump named a commission with one key task: to collect voter rosters from the states and compare the names with immigration status on file at the Department of Homeland Security. The idea was to produce unassailable government numbers, not polling extrapolations.

But a number of states balked at providing their registrants’ names and addresses. With little data to work with, the commission dissolved.

The Democrats’ H.R. 1 would make it even more difficult for local registrars to weed out noncitizens. The bill would wipe away a number of state voter ID laws, including photo ID. The Public Interest Legal Foundation analysis says the legislation would criminalize a state’s refusal to accept all voter registration applications.

A conservative activist lawyer filed a lawsuit on behalf of Maryland voters to obtain jury pool statistics in Frederick County. In a small snapshot, the lawyer found that nearly 180 noncitizens from the juries’ disqualified lists of 1,400 in 2007, 2008 and 2011 were found to have registered to vote and, of those, 63 voted.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation prides itself as a watchdog that uncovers potential voting fraud. It has found noncitizens registered to vote in a number of Virginia locales.

Its most recent report, on March 10, revealed that 92,367 of 1,277,897 million mailed ballots were returned in Clark County, Nevada’s most populous, because the ballots were sent to wrong or outdated addresses.

Democrat-heavy Clark County mails ballots to residents without request. In the primary election, more than 200,000 ballots were returned as undeliverable. Clark County adjusted by including only “active” voters for the general election, but more than 92,000 were returned.

The Census Bureau figure of 22.7 million noncitizens may be low — by a lot. A Yale University study found 22 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., not the generally accepted number of 11.3 million. If correct, that would mean there are nearly 35 million noncitizens.

“Mass-mail balloting is a step backward for American elections,” said Christian Adams, president and general counsel of the Public Interest Legal Foundation. “There are millions of voter registration records with unreliable ‘active’ address information that will ultimately send ballots to the wrong place in a mail election. H.R. 1 does more harm than good for the American people and will leave them at a constant disadvantage to correct election system errors which ultimately impact their abilities to vote in a timely manner.”

The Nevada Republican Party issued a statement on Dec. 12 saying 3,987 noncitizens illegally voted on Nov. 3 based on a comparison with driver’s licenses provided under subpoena by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The possible problem with this data is that a driver could have obtained citizenship between the time the license was issued and the time of registration.

The House passed H.R. 1 on March 4 by a vote of 220-210, with no Republican support.

Rep. John Sarbanes, Maryland Democrat and a leading bill sponsor, said in a statement: “H.R. 1 expands access to the ballot box by taking aim at institutional barriers to voting, including cumbersome voter registration systems, disenfranchisement and limited voting hours. H.R. 1 will create automatic voter registration across the country, ensure that individuals who have completed felony sentences have their full voting rights restored, expand early voting and enhance absentee voting, simplify voting by mail, reduce long lines and wait times for voters and modernize America’s voting system.

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