Larry Levy: Citizens Aren’t the Only People Who Vote
Attorney Larry Levy of the law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani has penned this important article relating to voter fraud in Colorado.
On March 8, 2011 Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler issued a non-partisan report suggesting that thousands of non-citizens registered to vote, and, indeed, did vote in Colorado in 2010. The study draws few conclusions, but indicates that something is awry with the Colorado voter registration process.
In 2006, Colorado started requiring an individual to show documentation proving lawful presence in the State to obtain a driver’s license or State identification card. Although birth certificates and passports are the best form of identification, Colorado also three types of other documentation for non-citizens: an Employment Authorization Document, commonly called a “work permit,” which allows an alien to work legally in the US for a specified time; a U.S. Permanent Resident Card or “green card,” which grants permanent legal resident status and offers a pathway to citizenship after at least a three-year wait; and an INS arrival/departure record, which allows foreign citizens to visit for 90 days or less. Colorado law also permits residents to use a driver’s license issued by another state to obtain a new license or identification card.
By comparing the State’s driver’s license/personal identification database with Colorado’s voter rolls, the Secretary of State study was able to identify the number of non-citizens who had successfully registered to vote, as well as those that voted. The results of the review are shocking. The study demonstrates that of the 139,379 people who presented a green card to obtain a license or identification card, 10,048 registered to vote and 4,214 actually voted. Similarly, of the 33,561 individuals who had used a work permit, 1,228 had successfully registered, with 603 of them actually voting. Finally, INS arrival/departure records were used by 69,023 people, producing 419 people who were registered to vote and 130 who voted.
Given that the voter role information does not indicate specifically how the non-citizens registered to vote, it cannot be said with absolute certainty that these voters, who had used proof of non-citizenship to obtain their driver’s license or identification cards, were still non-citizens at the time of voting. However, it is highly unlikely that most of them had obtained citizenship before voting. While, for example, those who used a green card may have obtained citizenship between the time of getting a drivers license and voting, given the lengthy processing time to actually obtain citizenship, it is more likely that most registrants were not entitled to vote. Further, given the limited purposes of a work permit and INS arrival/departure record, it is even more unlikely that those voters had obtained citizenship prior to voting.
One thing is absolutely certain: 106 of those who were non-citizens at the time they obtained their license or identification card voted illegally, as State records show they presented proof of non-citizenship to the State after having voted.
This important study reveals troubling flaws in Colorado’s voter registration system while providing a wake-up call to the many states with similar systems. While it is possible that some of these illegal voter registrations were a result of either nefarious or negligent conduct by those seeking to swell voter rolls, it is more likely that the implementation of the national motor/voter registration system is to blame, either through clerical error or willful manipulation. Further, it is likely that many other registrants who were not part of the study used a driver’s license from another state as proof of lawful presence, a document that suffers from the same defects as Colorado’s license.
These problems are not specific to Colorado. A 2005 U.S. Government Accountability Office study identified that in one U.S. District Court, over a two-year period, as much as three percent of the 30,000 individuals called for jury duty from voter registration rolls were not U.S. citizens. Given the estimated 12 million illegal (undocumented) aliens in the United States this small sample may well portend a much larger problem.
While citizens must demonstrate their commitment to our democracy by voting, a proliferation of illegal votes undermines the very democracy we seek to protect, dilutes citizens’ votes and encourages illegal activity by those seeking political advantage from illegal voters. The flaws exposed in this study will only be exacerbated by the blind rush in some states to increase voter participation through mistake-prone and easily manipulated programs such as same-day registration. We must encourage and protect every citizen’s right to exercise the sacred franchise, but must do so in a manner that ensures the integrity of elections and preserves our constitutional imperative.
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