This column by ACRU Policy Board member Hans von Spakovsky was published September 8, 2016 by Conservative Review.
Election integrity foes mistakenly tell us voter fraud is a myth. So when legitimate voter fraud is actually discovered, these foes pretend it didn’t happen, fail to take any steps to investigate or prosecute such cases, or, even worse, try to cover it up. Take Virginia, where the State Board of Elections and some local election officials want to hide a blatant case of voter fraud involving noncitizens.
Penalties for voting as a non-citizen
When non-citizens register or actually vote, they violate both state and federal statutes because citizenship is a requirement to vote in both state and federal elections. Falsely claiming to be a citizen on a voter registration form is a felony that violates three different federal statutes. Voting by a non-citizen under 18 U.S.C. §611 is a strict liability offense. In other words, it “does not require proof that the offender was aware that citizenship is a prerequisite to voting.” Article II, Section 1 of the Virginia constitution requires a voter to be a citizen, and §24.2-1004 of the Virginia Code makes it a felony to vote when you are “not qualified to vote” in the state.
So you would think state and local election officials would treat these crimes with appropriate seriousness. Guess again.
When I was a member of the Fairfax County Electoral Board in Virginia, we discovered close to 300 non-citizens who had illegally registered in our county, about half of whom had also illegally voted in prior elections. We removed those individuals from the voter rolls and forwarded their files to both the Commonwealth Attorney (Virginia’s equivalent of the county district attorney) and the U.S. Justice Department for investigation and prosecution. Neither took any action to enforce the law against these non-citizens.
Voter Fraud in Virginia
Fast forward to April of this year when the Virginia Voters Alliance and a Virginia voter (David Norcross) filed a lawsuit against the city of Alexandria, Va., claiming that the general registrar, Anna Leider, was violating the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).The lawsuit charged that Leider failed to make her records related to the city’s voter-list maintenance procedures available for public inspection, which would obviously include all information about the removal of ineligible voters.
The Alliance also claimed Leider was not conducting the reasonable list-maintenance procedures mandated by the NVRA to clean up the rolls by removing the names of registered voters who are deceased, have moved, or are otherwise ineligible to vote (like non-citizens). As a result of the lawsuit, the Alliance was finally able to get into Leider’s office and inspect the voter registration records. Among the items they discovered was a list containing several hundred registrants who had been removed from the voter rolls because they were not U.S. citizens.
Whether Alexandria notified law-enforcement officials is unclear.
Leider stonewalls the Alliance
When the Alliance asked to photocopy this document, Leider refused. Her attorney later told the Public Interest Legal Foundation, which is representing the Alliance and David Norcross, that the state election board was telling her she could not release that information.
The Alliance was not able to determine exactly how many of those non-citizens had illegally voted before being dropped from the voter list. In a letter to the Public Interest Legal Foundation, the city’s attorney subsequently claimed that the voter history of non-citizens who are removed from the voter rolls is not subject to the public records inspection provision of the NVRA. In other words, they are trying to hide whether non-citizens illegally voted.
Whether Alexandria notified law-enforcement officials is unclear. The city’s attorney says there were some “communications to and from the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office,” but no records concerning those communications have been released. That response indicates that the city did not turn over any records to federal authorities.
What we have here are several hundred cases of voter fraud in just one Virginia city that won’t appear in any public reports when there are discussions and debates about voter fraud.
This is what a cover-up directed by state election officials looks like.
Fraud elsewhere in Virginia
As a result of the discovery of all of these non-citizens in Alexandria, the Alliance decided to send information requests under the NVRA to several other Virginia counties requesting information on registered voters who were not U.S. citizens. Prince William County produced a list of more than 400 non-citizens who had been removed from the county’s voter rolls. There is no indication that Prince William (or the state election board) forwarded information to local or federal prosecutors on these 400 potential felons for investigation and possible prosecution either. So here we have another 400 likely cases of voter fraud that won’t appear in any records.
Bedford County, a relatively small rural county in Virginia with only about 60,000 individuals of voting age, actually provided the Alliance with a list of several dozen non-citizens who had been removed from the voter rolls. After the Alliance received the list, the Public Interest Legal Foundation received a telephone call from the Bedford County registrar asking the Alliance to either return or delete the list. She said that Virginia state election officials had contacted her and informed her that she shouldn’t have sent the Alliance the list of removed non-citizens. There is also no evidence that Bedford County forwarded information on these non-citizens who had broken the law to law enforcement officials for possible prosecution.
Numerous other Virginia counties have refused to provide this information to the Public Interest Legal Foundation, apparently based on instructions from the State Board of Elections and individuals working for the state Department of Elections, which the Board supervises. This is what a cover-up directed by state election officials looks like. They are trying to hide hundreds, if not thousands, of instances of voter fraud that occurred on their watch.
If thousands of aliens are registered or actually voting, it would obviously undermine the national narrative that voter fraud is a myth. This would be particularly disturbing in a state like Virginia, in which statewide elections for attorney general have been decided by fewer than 1,000 votes in the last decade.
Nonchalant attitude rampant in Virginia politics
This should come as no surprise. After all, it was Gov. McAuliffe who in April 2015 vetoed a bill that would have required jury commissioners to forward information to election officials on individuals who were excused from jury duty for not being a citizen. And last year, I criticized James Alcorn, one of the two Democratic appointees on the Virginia Board of Elections, after he proposed that the election board change its rules so that individuals leaving the citizenship question unanswered on the voter registration form would still be allowed to register.
Alcorn stated at the time that the focus shouldn’t be on “whether the voter is able to complete the form,” which totally discounted the fact that ignoring this omission would make it incredibly easy for non-citizens to get away with illegally registering to vote. Although the proposal was apparently supported by the other Democratic appointee, Singleton McAlister, Clara Belle Wheeler, the sole Republican member of the State Board of Elections, objected to the proposal which, after a public outcry, was tabled.
By instructing the counties not to provide the requested information to the Virginia Voters Alliance, these state officials appear to be violating federal law, specifically the provision in NVRA covering “Public disclosure of voter registration activities” (52 U.S.C. §20507(i)) which mandates that election officials “make available for public inspection and, where available, photocopying at a reasonable cost, all records concerning the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voters.” Another provision of federal law, 52 U.S.C. §20702, makes it a misdemeanor for any individual to “conceal” any such “records and papers” relating to voter registrations and other election documents. Violation can result in a fine of $1,000 or imprisonment of not more than a year.
So the next time someone tells you that we shouldn’t be concerned about voter fraud, think about the hundreds of non-citizens who have apparently illegally registered and who may have even voted in elections in the Commonwealth of Virginia. They may have been removed from the voter rolls but so far none of them has been prosecuted for violating the law. Worse, these aliens were only detected because they sought to renew their driver’s licenses and told the truth the second time when they admitted to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles that they were not citizens.
We have no idea how many other non-citizens remain undetected in the voter rolls of Virginia, a purple state where the outcome of the November election is still in doubt, and where the state takes no steps of any kind to verify the citizenship status of voter registrants. It is a state where the controlling members of the State Board of Elections obviously see nothing wrong with violating federal public records law, attempting to conceal illegal registration and voting, and seem to have no interest in taking any steps to prosecute those who have violated some of our most fundamental protections intended to preserve the integrity of our election process.