The Pennsylvania House State Government Committee convened a hearing Wednesday after a series of revelations indicating “hundreds” of alien residents were found registered to vote and casting ballots there. The chief election officer for the State abruptly and silently resigned after the latest study into the matter.
No solid figures were released by legislative or state elections department investigators as of now, though a patchwork of reports found hundreds of cases where resident noncitizens came forward asking that their names be removed from voter registries.
Current studies, official and private, suggest a total of at least 540 illegal ballots were cast from a still unclear cohort of noncitizen voters over the decade.
State election officials testified today that a leading cause for noncitizen registration sits with faulty procedures within PennDOT, the driver’s license issuing agency. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (a.k.a. Motor Voter) requires that individuals engaging in public service transactions be offered voter registration opportunities in the same visit. Testimony revealed that PennDOT’s screening configuration did not account for the possibility that a customer may not be a U.S. citizen and therefore offered voter registration applications to Americans and legal resident aliens alike, according to the Associated Press. Claims of citizenship are not typically verified after the fact.
Pennsylvania officials admitted today they were aware of the “glitch” and knew of its existence since 1995—the inception of Motor Voter enforcement.
Several studies into the general matter found that the primary cause for a noncitizen voter to self-report their status to election officials is to hopefully pre-empt an immigration inquiry that could lead to a range of consequences from naturalization delays to felony convictions and deportation.
Jonathan Marks, an official testifying on behalf of the Pennsylvania Department of State, noted today before the committee that it would take “months” before the procedural glitches would be corrected in full. The full scale of noncitizens off and on local voter rolls remains unclear but is currently being probed.
A series of recent reports and incidents led to the hearing. In October 2016, the Public Interest Legal Foundation released a limited study finding 86 noncitizens removed from the City of Philadelphia’s voter rolls between 2013 and 2015. Roughly half of those voted, according to the report. That same month, the husband of a Green Card holder came forward with documentation showing how the Pennsylvania Secretary of State sent a pre-election mailer to his wife, notifying her that she was not registered to vote but could still do so in time for the November 2016 contests. LifeZette reported that mailers were sent to all residents with driver’s licenses in the state that were not registered to vote, totaling 2.5 million. Statements at the time indicate that other individuals without citizenship presented identical correspondence in protest.
In September 2017, the City of Philadelphia disclosed that 317 people came forward to admit noncitizenship between 2006 and 2017—roughly half voted, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Scores of additional cases in other counties were disclosed to include Allegheny.
On October 11, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Pedro Cortes resigned without official explanation. The Wolf Administration (D) remains mum about his departure.