When someone applies for a driver’s license in Virginia they’re “offered” a voter registration application, even in the most unusual circumstances. Even though DMV is supposed to be gathering information about an applicant’s legal status and citizenship, they still seem to manage to extend this offer for voting privileges to people who they know, or darned well should know, aren’t citizens based on the information they just had handed to them by the applicant when they were applying for a driver’s license. As a result we get a steady stream of people registering to vote who just aren’t eligible. Surprise.
I was curious about how much of a problem this really is, so I started asking questions, figuring that one strong indicator of a problem might be the incidence of people asking to be excused from jury duty because they’re not citizens. In Virginia (as is the case in many other states) the way you end up in the jury pool is by registering to vote, so if the process was working correctly, you shouldn’t have anyone showing up for jury selection who isn’t a citizen. To that end I asked the Clerk of the Court in Prince William County, Michele McQuigg, how I might go about finding out how much this is happening, and she was most helpful in providing what answers she could.
It turns out that in the past five years we’ve had 24 individuals excluded from jury duty because they’re not citizens, and already we’ve had four of those this year. That’s just the ones who admitted they weren’t citizens to a court. It’s not a huge number, but when you extrapolate out to the number of registered voters in the county it suggests that if you called every registered voter in Prince William County and the two enclosed independent cities for jury service, seven hundred and eleven of these registered voters would say they’re not citizens. Quite a few more certainly might be noncitizens who are willing to perjure themselves out of concern that they might get prosecuted for fraudulently registering to vote, fraudulently voting, or being an illegal alien.
This situation isn’t unique to Virginia, and other states have in the past tried to determine how many fraudulent voter registrations developed into fraudulent votes. The percentage seems to run about 30% in those other states, so we can project that in the last election 213 noncitizens cast votes in the Prince William County area for candidates in the 1st, 10th and 11th Congressional Districts. I wouldn’t call this a huge voting block, but on occasion we get some close elections and numbers like this could potentiality swing an election. Whether it does or not, it’s still pretty outrageous. Your vote could be canceled out by an illegal alien, and no one is trying to stop that from happening right now.
In order to prevent this problem, or at least keep it somewhat under control, you’d think when someone who is clearly registered to vote swears under penalty of perjury that they’re a non-citizen, someone would inform the registrar’s office so their name can be stricken from the rolls. I’d fully expect that absent any evidence of an intent to commit fraud that prosecutors would avail themselves of their discretion and not do anything but warn folks not to do this again, but at least we’d scrub the voter list of ineligible voters this way. Now if these ineligible registrants also voted, I’m not sure I’d be quite so tolerant. Fraudulent voting is to be taken seriously, or at least it should be.
The federal government enacted “motor-voter” trying to increase the level of participation in local, state and federal elections. Not only has that failed to happen (participation rates continue to drop, although that’s not been a steady change), but now we get non-citizens participating in our elections either through ignorance, or perhaps by design. If we’re going to hand out voter registrations like they’re candy, we need to start verifying the information we get and doing a better job of maintaining the list, or we have to rethink the idea that everyone who wants a driver’s license should automatically be begged to register and handed an application.
All these gaping holes in the process are an invitation for abuse. We close them now, or we will without any doubt get the abuse we are so eagerly inviting in spades.
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