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No, We Don’t Already Have ‘Effective Safeguards’ To Verify Voter Citizenship

Biden claimed there are already ‘effective safeguards in place to verify voters’ eligibility.’ That’s not true.


Democrats have made clear they will vote on Wednesday in opposition to legislation that would require a would-be voter to prove he is a citizen before registering, suggesting the bill is unnecessary because it’s illegal for noncitizens to vote in federal elections and there are already “effective safeguards in place to verify voters’ eligibility.”

But those “safeguards” are flawed and ineffective.

President Joe Biden released a statement Monday expressing opposition to the Safeguarding American Voter Eligibility (SAVE) Act. The legislation would amend the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) to require applicants to provide documentary proof of citizenship when registering to vote.

[READ NEXT: Biden’s ‘Amnesty’ Plan Could Turn 500,000 Illegal Aliens Into Future Voters]

Biden claimed the “justification for this bill is based on easily disproven falsehoods” and noted “making a false claim of citizenship or unlawfully voting in an election is punishable by removal from the United States and a permanent bar to admission.”

“States already have effective safeguards in place to verify voters’ eligibility and maintain the accuracy of voter rolls,” Biden alleged.

But how “effective” are the current mechanisms in place?

A Square Box Stands Between a Noncitizen And a Vote

The first line of defense preventing foreign nationals from voting in federal elections is a small square box on a voter registration form. The box asks “Are you a citizen of the United States of America?” Further down, the application asks each registrant to sign his name and “swear/affirm that” he is a “United States citizen” and that the information provided in the application “is true to the best of my knowledge under penalty of perjury.”

Registrants who provide false information can be fined, imprisoned, or — in the case of foreign nationals — deported/refused entry, the application states. Of course, any illegal alien who might get ahold of a voter registration form in the United States has already broken the law by entering the country.

The Problem with HAVA

Another “safeguard” is the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and the Help America Vote Verification (HAVV) system it established. HAVA requires states to check information about newly registered voters in federal elections against the information stored in the state’s motor vehicle administration database. States are supposed to check a voter’s driver’s license number, or if a voter doesn’t have one, the last four digits of his Social Security number. Notably, foreigners present in the United States can obtain either, so the documentation does not necessarily prove citizenship.

Under HAVA, sometimes individuals who didn’t provide either ID number end up on a state’s voter rolls anyway. In North Carolina, there are hundreds of thousands of voters whose records are “missing” either their driver’s license ID or the last four digits of their Social Security number, yet still made it onto the voter rolls, according to data reviewed by The Federalist.

In fact, the state’s voter registration form had previously lacked a clear indication that such identification numbers were required, which the North Carolina Board of Elections later acknowledged could result in HAVA violations. The form was later updated. But when a local election integrity activist filed a complaint asking the Board of Elections to remedy the number of individuals who made it on the voter rolls with a “missing” driver’s license identification number or Social Security number, the board rejected the complaint. The board claimed HAVA did not authorize them to “contact all existing registered voters” who failed to provide the HAVA identifiers.

North Carolina Election Integrity Team President Jim Womack said election administrators are “handcuffed … from maintaining clean voter rolls.”

When a registrant checks the box saying he has neither a driver’s license nor a Social Security number, HAVA mandates that “the State shall assign the applicant a number which will serve to identify the applicant for voter registration purposes.”

In California, the secretary of state’s office told The Federalist that individuals who say they lack both forms of ID would later be prompted to provide proof of identity (not citizenship). Allowable options include low-security documents like a utility bill, a credit card, or a gym membership.

Arizona has tried to remedy the situation, with voters approving a law in 2004 requiring documentary proof of citizenship to vote. But the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in 2013 that forced the state to accept the federal voter registration form, which only requires applicants to affirm their citizenship by checking off a box. In response, Arizona created a state registration form that requires proof of citizenship, while applicants who use the federal form are registered as federal-only voters and are unqualified to vote in state elections. But as my colleague M.D. Kittle explained, the state was forced in 2018 to “not only accept federal-only applications lacking proof of citizenship but also grant a federal-only registration to applicants who used a state form but couldn’t provide proof of citizenship.”

The state then saw an “explosion of federal only voters,” President of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club Scot Mussi said. In 2018, about 1,700 people voted using a federal-only ballot. By 2020, that number jumped to 11,600, according to AZ Free News. Biden won the state by 10,457 votes.

Foreign Nationals Do Vote in U.S. Elections

Biden and other Democrats want to pretend that since alien voting is supposedly “rare,” it doesn’t deserve attention or a remedy. But foreign nationals have been found registered to vote, while other aliens are permitted to vote in certain local elections.

In a critique of the SAVE Act, the Associated Press’ Ali Swenson insisted that “[v]oting by people who are not U.S. citizens already is illegal in federal elections and there is no indication it’s happening anywhere in significant numbers.” But she then conceded that “there have been cases over the years of noncitizens illegally registering and even casting ballots.”

Notably, as many as 1,500 foreigners were registered to vote in California by the state DMV in 2018.

Then there are cities that willingly permit noncitizens to vote. In San Francisco, aliens can vote in school board elections if they have a child under the age of 19 living in the city. Municipalities in Maryland and Vermont also permit noncitizen voting. Meanwhile, a judge recently struck down a law in New York City that sought to open the city’s municipal elections to more than 800,000 noncitizens.

This shouldn’t be particularly surprising coming from Democrats, given that during a recent Senate Judiciary hearing on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, three Democratic witnesses couldn’t agree that only citizens should vote in federal elections.

Democrats’ opposition to requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote isn’t grounded in any care for voters. Election security laws corrode opportunities to abuse the electoral system for political gain, and Democrats won’t have that.

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