The White House announced last week that Kris Kobach, Kansas secretary of state and associate counsel at my law firm, is to be vice chairman of the newly-created Presidential Commission on Voter Integrity.
According to the Executive Order establishing the commission, Kobach and his team will be investigating the vulnerabilities in our electoral system when it comes to improper voting and will report on any policies and practices that undermine the public’s confidence in the electoral process.
Those vulnerabilities are vast, but luckily, the solution’s simple, sensible, and already is practiced in countries like Canada and Mexico; that is, citizenship-verification as a prerequisite for voter registration.
After the state of Kansas voted to end the oath-based “honor system” currently used on the federal form to register new voters, Kobach requested the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to change his state’s version of the form in accordance with voters’ wishes.
That request, which was also made by Arizona and Georgia, however, was rejected. As justification, the EAC pointed to several “alternatives” which, as they put it, already “reflects the State's’ ability to identify potential non-citizens and thereby enforce their voter qualifications relating to citizenship, even in the absence of the additional instructions they requested on the Federal Form.”
But as critics from both sides of the spectrum agree, each of the EAC’s suggested alternatives was problematic.
Nearly all the EAC alternatives involve the cross-checking of certain state and federal databases against state voter rolls. Besides being far more burdensome than simple citizenship-verification, cross-checking fails to ensure that noncitizens are removed from voter rolls before a fraudulent vote is already cast.
As for burdensomeness, take their suggestion that voter rolls be checked against the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements database (SAVE), a program intended to verify citizenship status for the purpose of receiving federal, state, and local benefits.
Apart from the fact that undocumented immigrants don’t have the Alien Registration Numbers needed to even appear in the system, using SAVE to check voter rolls entails a drawn-out process consisting of a state application made to the federal government followed by the formation of a negotiated use agreement between each party. On top of the fact, such cooperation is never guaranteed, SAVE cross-checking takes up limited agency resources, and again, cannot rectify a fraudulent vote after the damage’s already been done.
Another EAC suggestion was to cross-check voter rolls with records of driver’s licenses issued to noncitizens. Both sets of data are not temporally aligned, however, and can lead to the removal of citizens from voter rolls who were not citizens at the time they were issued a license.
Particularly curious was the EAC’s suggestion to cross-check rolls with information provided by jury commissioners. To illustrate the use of juror response-comparisons, one study in California’s Orange County showed that every month thousands of residents requested for jury duty were claiming the noncitizen exemption even though 90 percent of them had actually been pulled from county voter rolls.
When Kansas presented similar evidence to support their argument for citizenship verification, the EAC cited the arguments of several “anti-voter suppression” activists who had noted that “statements made to a jury commissioner are not always reliable.” But this contradicts the EAC’s overarching claim that the oath system, in general, is an austere enough protective measure.
As for the threat of prosecution, its effectiveness depends on how much there is to gain from illegal voting and, unfortunately, the potential gains have never been greater.
Bills promising benefits to undocumented immigrants are routinely introduced at the state and federal level while the millions covered by temporary amnesty programs, like DACA and Temporary Protected Status, will become legalized if enough marginal districts tip in their favor.
DACA and TPS-beneficiaries also have an increased ability to register and vote due to their eligibility for federal identification documents, including driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers.
The burden of cross-checking as well as the threat of illegal voting increases with the size of the noncitizen population; a population that’s recently eclipsed the 40 million mark. Just take Minnesota’s 2012 senate election as an example.
Going by the assumption that noncitizens prefer the Democratic Party by two-to-one, professors Jesse Richman and David Earnest found that just 0.65 percent of that state’s non-citizen population would have needed to vote to decide Senator Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' Andrew Cuomo and the death of shame MORE’s slim 312-vote victory that year.
In a legal challenge in 2012 to a citizenship-verification law passed in Arizona, 26 county election officials in that state argued that citizenship verification was a “compelling” “security measure” crucial in preventing vote dilution.
Nearly 80 percent of the public agrees.
When the Commission’s report drops, it’s hoped cooler heads will prevail and that critics of Kobach and the president put the public’s desire for voter integrity before politics.
Ian Smith is an investigative associate at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.
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