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Pa. Will Leave Non-Citizens on Voter Rolls

Pennsylvania election officials do not plan to seek access to a federal database that would help them identify legal noncitizens, who have registered to vote

By Jared Sichel | PA Independent

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania will not be following Florida’s lead in identifying noncitizens on its voter registration rolls, even though the commonwealth’s law doesn’t do much to stop noncitizens from registering.

“We haven’t come across that as an issue,” said Pennsylvania Department of State spokesman Ron Ruman. “It hasn’t crossed our radar, I guess, as something we needed to look at.”

Ruman added that his agency has “no intention” of accessing the national database of resident noncitizens as Florida did.

The Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements database, maintained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, includes people who legally reside in the United States with visas, for example, but are not citizens and cannot legally vote.

If the Keystone State wanted to tap into SAVE, the state’s 67 counties could cross-check their registered voter rolls and easily remove illegally registered noncitizens.

Florida Republicans — in a campaign to ensure accurate voter rolls — recently convinced DHS to grant the Sunshine State access to SAVE.

Republican officials in several battleground states — including Ohio, Michigan and Colorado — closely followed Florida’s success and accessed SAVE.

In Pennsylvania, the law allows legal noncitizens to vote if they sign an affidavit for their county election board, stating that they will have been American citizens for at least one month prior to the next election.

And that is the loophole.

Republican Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt referred to instances in which noncitizens successfully voted in areport highlighting voter irregularities in the city.

Unless illegal noncitizens step forward, the state or a county board of elections wouldn’t know that they voted until they applied for citizenship with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to Schmidt’s report.

Since Jan. 1, CIS has identified 19 people in Philadelphia County who are applying for citizenship but illegally registered to vote. Seven of them have voted in at least one election since 2002.

Because CIS only notifies Pennsylvania once someone applies for citizenship, counties can’t gauge how many noncitizens are on their voter rolls.

“We only find about it in this weird backdoor way of immigration contacting us,” Schmidt said. “We don’t know how many noncitizens we have registered.”

However, Schmidt had reservations about using SAVE to purge the voter rolls, saying the process should be done cautiously to avoid accidentally removing legally registered voters, who recently gained citizenship.

“It’s something that we should at least explore,” Schmidt said. “(But) the absolute last thing you want to do is remove an eligible registered voter from the poll books.”

Philadelphia’s Democratic Deputy Commissioner Jorge Santana said the Pennsylvania’s Department of State should spearhead the removal of illegal noncitizens, because its database — the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors — facilitates counties’ efforts to maintain accurate voter rolls.

“It’s not a major, major thing that’s happening, but it is something that we want to address,” Santana said. “It’s really essential that something of that magnitude — working with a federal department —happens at the state level.”

Removing noncitizens from the voter rolls is part of a national trend against voter fraud led by GOP-dominated statehouses that have passed voter ID legislation. Gov. Tom Corbett signed Pennsylvania’s photo ID law in March, making Pennsylvania the ninth state to require photo ID as a condition of voting.

The Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in May in the Commonwealth Court, alleging that the photo ID law violates the state constitution. The first hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in Harrisburg.

THOMAS P. TRINKLE July 31, 2012 at 03:37 AM
I am an American citizen living in Japan. My wife is a Japanese citizen. Our three children born in Japan were permitted to hold passports of both America and Japan. At age 20 they are required by law to declare citizenship of one of the two countries. Our children all hold US passports. They do hold permanent residence in Japan and are required to return every three years to maintain the (Green Card) visa. One point to know is that it is not investigated and there are many who keep both into their twenties. Leave Japan on a Japanese passport. Enter America on a US passport. At the immigration counter it raises all sorts of suspicion.
ted.dobracki July 31, 2012 at 03:36 PM
"In Pennsylvania, the law allows legal noncitizens to vote if they sign an affidavit for their county election board, stating that they will have been American citizens for at least one month prior to the next election." Dead wrong. If someone lies by signing an affadavit claiming citizenship, the are committing perjury, which is an criminal offense, which would, in theory be easily provable, since they would have created the paper trail! As a practical matter, it might not be discovered and it might not even be prosecuted, but that doesn't make it any more legal.
Alfred E. Neuman November 06, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Can't understand why PA WOULDN'T want to access this national database of those registered but not legally entitled to vote. It seems quite clear that unfortunately there are those @ both local and federal level who are less than interested in preventing illegals from voting, including Oba a's Attorney General Eric Holder who has spent most of his time (and your money) in the last few months filing lawsuits against any state with the audacity to actually require an I.D. to vote! It would be very hard to understand why ANY federal official would think it a good use of scarce resources to sue states for requiring a photo ID to vote--until one considers which party the vast majority of illegals support if they DO vote! Surprised there hasn't been more attention focused on the shameful activities of Holder and other culprits in Obama's notoriously political DOJ!
Willard Semmler November 06, 2012 at 03:55 AM
Completely agree with Alfred above--why in the world wouldn't PA want to access the list of those not eligible to vote? And how do we know "it's not a big problem", if we don't have any good way of identifying those who vote illegally? I for one am just sick and tired of self-interested career politicians doing whatever they think is necessary to further their own interests, regardless of what's right or even legal. Was quite surprised for example that there wasn't more outrage after Obama overrode the expressed intent of Congress which had just voted down the "DREAM act, when he quickly issued another one of his "Executive Orders" immediately making the children of all those here illegally legal pretty much immediately. And as Alfred points out, "I wonder who they're all going to vote for?" I for one am just sick and tired of working hard, following the rules, and paying my taxes and then seeing all these $$ go out the window to pay for the healthcare, education, increased law enforcement, etc., etc., of ILLEGAL immigrants. I just hope and pray that the majority of Americans wake up and realize what's really been going on in Washington the past 4 years and do the right thing for the good of our country when they get into the voting booth tomorrow!
Willard Semmler November 06, 2012 at 03:57 AM
Is what "freeandequalPA" says about just needing the "last 4 SS digits" and nothing else to vote by absentee ballot true? If so, it seems like it has the potential for tremendous fraud. But that may be exactly what the current Presidential administration wants!

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