Pat Loeb, CBS Philly, September 20, 2017
Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt says a glitch in the state’s “motor-voter” process has allowed non-U.S. citizens to register to vote, even though he thinks they did so accidentally.
Secretary of State Pedro Cortes issued a statement saying PennDOT is changing its system to prevent the problem in the future and has already made improvements. He did not address reviewing and cross checking registrations statewide. A spokeswoman for Cortes said they are conducting their own review.
Voting advocates say Schmidt’s concern is misplaced and they worry more about voter suppression, with a Trump administration panel looking for fraud even where there is no evidence of any.
Schmidt hastens to say he does not consider the non-citizen registrations as fraud.
“Voter fraud implies intent,” says Schmidt. “Voting irregularity is a vote that was not a legitimate vote but it’s not cast with the intention to commit fraud.”
“Maybe they think it’s a sign of their civic participation and then find out down the line they’re not eligible to vote and they contact our office and ask that their registration be cancelled,” he says.
He says there may be many more who didn’t contact the office.
David Thornburgh, president and CEO of the election watchdog, The Committee of Seventy, doubts that.
“I can’t believe this would be the tip of the iceberg,” he says. “I don’t understand why this surfaces right now. This is a miniscule number, about .02 percent of all the city’s registered voters. I don’t get it.”
Thornburgh points to a study by the non-partisan Keystone Votes that found 17,000 registrations in Philadelphia were processed late, making the potential disenfranchisement of legitimate voters a bigger problem than the accidental registering of non-citizens.
But Schmidt says he has another concern.
“It undermines the integrity of elections and it undermines their own chances of becoming citizens,” Schmidt says. “That’s very unfair, as well.”
Cortes agrees and says the state was taking action even before it heard from Schmidt.