Thousands of Illegal Immigrants Lurking on Virginia’s Voter Rolls

Rowan Scarborough, Washington Times, March 1, 2017

When Virginia Delegate Robert Marshall asked the state’s 133 local governments to provide numbers on noncitizens and jury pools, Loudoun County produced some hefty figures.

Between 2009 and 2014, the Washington, D.C., exurb of more than 350,000 residents had disqualified more than 9,000 of them for jury duty because they were not U.S. citizens.

Loudoun County jury pools come from two sources — voter registration lists and Department of Motor Vehicle driver’s license applications. The county’s 9,000 juror disqualifications means that a potentially significant number of noncitizens vote illegally in Virginia. It suggests a basis for President Trump’s assertion of illegal immigrants voting in November’s elections, though not necessarily by the “millions” he has claimed.

After Mr. Marshall, Prince William Republican, had collected the jury pool data in 2014, a new player entered the state last year. The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) began canvassing election clerks county by county, city by city, demanding they turn over information on noncitizens purged from voters lists and whether they had voted.

The foundation found itself in a stiff battle with Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s elections chief, who, PILF said, did not want to turn over voter information. In October PILF issued its first report, accusing the state of a “cover up” as “thousands” of noncitizens illegally remain on Virginia’s voting rolls.

Citing data from six counties and two cities, the report found that 1,000 noncitizens were registered to vote in those jurisdictions between 2011 and 2016, and that 200 of them actually voted.

An example: In 2011 Fairfax County discovered 278 registered voters who had told the DMV they were not citizens. Of those, 117 had voted in state and federal elections.

PILF argues that these illegal voters were discovered mostly by accident and not as part of a statewide program to monitor lists and weed out aliens.

“It is, however, likely that based on discoveries to date, thousands of noncitizens remain registered and eligible to vote throughout the Commonwealth,” PILF said.

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Mr. Trump has announced he is establishing a special task force to examine illegal voting and out-of-date rosters. Underscoring the issue’s importance, he has appointed Vice President Mike Pence to head the effort.

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The Public Interest Legal Foundation, a conservative group striving to ensure voter list fidelity, says it is continuing its campaign. It is threatening lawsuits against Virginia’s counties and cities unless they comply by turning over what it argues is public information under the National Voter Registration Act.

Logan Churchwell, the foundation’s research director, said the problem with Virginia’s system is that noncitizens can register online and check “yes” for citizenship. They then click “send” or mail in the forms. There is no requirement to prove citizenship.

“You just take them at their word,” Mr. Churchwell said. “As long as your address does not bounce back as not valid, everyone assumes that everyone went through fine.

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Easy access is one reason the foundation is targeting Virginia, along with other states, some of whose voting districts have more registered voters than voting-age residents, according to the census.

Mr. Churchwell said another troubling finding is that virtually none of those who registered illegally are referred to prosecutors by election officials or are ever prosecuted.

“The law is not being followed,” he said.

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The foundation is demanding that counties and cities turn over the number of noncitizens cleansed from lists and records on any who voted. Since voter’s lists are constantly changing as new people register, that data indicate that noncitizens are always on the lists.

While they practiced different tactics to acquire noncitizen data, both Mr. Marshall and the foundation ran into the same roadblocks: Local governments, sometimes urged on by the state, often refused to comply.

In 2014 Mr. Marshall sent emails to 133 counties and independent cities asking the jury pool question. Only 37 responded. Ten responded with descriptions of how they select juries but provided no noncitizen numbers. Fifteen, including the city of Richmond, said no potential juror was disqualified because of noncitizenship.

Fairfax County reported 167 noncitizen jury disqualifications in 2014, Norfolk 1,223.

Loudoun County’s response was striking, as it provided the highest numbers not just for one year but for six years.

About 12.5 percent of the fast-growing, high-income county’s 373,000 residents are Latino.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation met opposition from local elections officials who it says have been cheered on by Edgardo Cortes, the top state elections official who runs the Virginia Department of Elections, or ELECT.

Mr. Cortes had been a veteran of organizing voter registration drives to sign up Latinos before he was appointed elections commissioner by Mr. McAuliffe.

“According to numerous county election officials, Commissioner Cortes had issued guidance to them, instructing them not to respond to our requests for records pertaining to non-citizen voters,” the foundation said in its October 2016 report. “Some election officials kindly provided us the original communications from Cortes.”

Mr. Cortes wrote to local governments that “you may not provide the information regarding reason for cancellation for non-citizen status” because cross-checking is done by comparing voters to their confidential DMV records. DMV asks applicants if they are U.S. citizens.

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Anti-voter fraud forces do not see an ally in Mr. McAuliffe. He has vetoed several bills aimed at scrutinizing rosters, including a measure this week. It would have directed registrars to audit voter lists for districts where the number of voters exceeds the U.S. Census tally for voting-age residents.

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A study by professors at Old Dominion University found that 6.4 percent of noncitizens voted illegally in the 2008 presidential election, based on polling and other data. The overall number could be as high as 2 million.

A separate poll of Latino U.S. residents in 2013 found that 13 percent of noncitizens said they were registered to vote. Compared to the U.S. Census for that year, it could be mean that 800,000 to 2.2 million were registered voters.

Said the Public Interest Legal Foundation: “Most discoveries of non-citizens on the registration rolls are accidental or chance. What this means is that the number of registered non-citizens thus far identified by this investigation is just the ‘tip of the iceberg.’ The true extent of the problem likely runs in the thousands, if not more. And it is not unique to Virginia.”

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