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Complaint: Illegal Memo Lets People Who Fail ID Checks Onto Pennsylvania’s Voter Rolls Anyway


Pennsylvania’s State Department issued a directive in 2018 that may allow noncitizens and other ineligible applicants to register to vote in violation of the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA), according to a complaint brought by America First Legal (AFL) and obtained first by The Federalist.

HAVA requires a voter to provide a valid driver’s license number — or, if and only if he has no driver’s license, the last four digits of his Social Security number — on his voter registration form. Election officials are then required to confirm whether the numbers provided are valid by checking them against state and federal databases. The system is meant to ensure that prospective voters are eligible. (Notably, foreign nationals can still obtain a Social Security number or driver’s license.)

But AFL, along with the law firm Zimolong LLC, argues that a 2018 directive the Pennsylvania Department of State issued to all 67 counties saying voter registration applications “may not be rejected based solely on a non-match between the applicant’s identifying numbers on their application and the comparison database numbers” is a violation of HAVA and potentially permits ineligible voters — including noncitizens — on the state’s voter rolls.

HAVA states that a voter registration application “may not be accepted or processed by a State unless the application includes” the driver’s license number of “a current and valid driver’s license” or “the last 4 digits of the applicant’s social security number.” (The exception is if an applicant has been issued neither, in which case HAVA requires the state to “assign the applicant a number which will serve to identify the applicant for voter registration purposes.”)

The AFL complaint alleges that the Pennsylvania directive “erroneously concludes that an application must be accepted if it contains any driver’s license or social security number rather than a valid one belonging to an applicant that can be verified against databases.”

The directive “does not just violate federal law; it creates a regime where an untold number of ineligible voters, including non-citizens, can register to vote in all state and federal elections in the Commonwealth,” the complaint reads.

AFL and Zimolong seek to compel the state to repeal the directive and “replace it with a directive that complies with HAVA.” Specifically, the complaint argues the new directive should require the state to verify the voter’s information prior to approving the application, and that counties should reject applications that provide either a driver’s license or social security number “that does not match state databases in accordance with HAVA.”

[READ NEXT: Data: More Than 200,000 People On North Carolina Voter Rolls ‘Missing’ ID Numbers]

“The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has adopted and maintained a voter registration process that clearly and unambiguously violates basic federal law intended to provide a minimum baseline of security,” AFL Executive Director Gene Hamilton said in a statement. “The Secretary of State must abandon this unlawful practice and comply with federal law to prevent fraud in elections in Pennsylvania.”

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