Philadelphia elections commissioner Al Schmidt admitted that non-US citizens were registered to vote in the City of Brotherly Love. He said that they were legal immigrants but not eligible to vote and nearly half of them cast ballots they were not authorized to cast. Legal immigrants residing in the US are eligible to request driver licenses in Pennsylvania, but are not allowed under the law to vote.
Schmidt said on Wednesday that a glitch at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation enabled legal permanent residents to register to vote at computer kiosks when applying or renewing vehicle registrations or driver licenses.
Schmidt, a Republican, said this week that he has been in contact with the Pennsylvania Department of State since July about the issue. Philly.com reported that Allegheny County elections director Mark Wolosik said that there have been nearly 100 cases of non-US citizens cancelling their voter registration in his county since 2006. As of Wednesday, Allegheny County could not provide a number of how many of the residents, or if any, had cast ballots in that period of time. Allegheny County became aware of the issue when immigrants or their attorney realized that errors were made after being asked about their registration during the citizenship process.
In 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump said that Philadelphia was witnessing voter fraud, while claiming that Philadelphia would be to blame if he lost. Schmidt said that a finding of fraud requires a knowing intent by an ineligible voter to register or cast a ballot. While all voter fraud is an irregularity, said Schmidt, “not all voter irregularities are fraud.” However, Schmidt admitted, “...the damage is still the same.”
Commissioner Schmidt’s data extends to 2006. It was then that Pennsylvania began using the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors, which provides reliable statistics about voters. The commissioners have been contacted by 317 voters have contacted the commissioners since then to have their voter registrations canceled because, even though they were legal residents, they were not authorized to vote. Of those 317, Schmidt’s office found that 220 were registered to vote from 2006 to 2017.Forty-four of those people voted in one election while 46 voted in more than one election.
Schmidt claimed that no election in Philadelphia during that time had a margin close enough that that result may have been changed by improperly registered non-US citizens. Schmidt contends that legal residents visited Pennsylvania’s DOT offices to obtain their driver licenses or get them up to date. Of the 220 people who contacted Philadelphia’s commissioners to cancel their registrations, 168 of them had registered at DOT offices at an electronic kiosk. The other 52, said Schmidt, registered by other means. Schmidt said that it is “completely plausible” that the non-US citizens believed that they were eligible to vote.
At the DOT kiosks, the 220 non-US citizens provided federal documentation of their eligibility to obtain driver licenses. During the process, they were asked to check off a box at the electronic kiosk if they wanted to register to vote. The process of pairing voter registration with obtaining a driver license is known as the “motor-voter,” a federal law that encourages voter registration. Of Schimdt said that of the ineligible voters, 155 were registered as Democrats, 23 as Republicans, and 42 as independents or as members of smaller political parties.
In 2008, when Barack Obama was elected president, the largest number of votes by non-US citizens amounted to 47 in Philadelphia. These amounted to 0065 percent of the 718,025 votes cast in Philadelphia.
Schmidt suspect that ineligible voters notified the commissioners of their improper registrations because they were asked by immigration authorities if they had ever been registered to vote in the United States. He said that some persons who had been improperly registered in the past may have become citizens. Invalid registration to vote can jeopardize a resident alien's’ application for citizenship.
“The current voter registration process at PennDOT is both harmful to election integrity and to members of the immigrant community seeking citizenship,” Schmidt said. In August, a female legal resident of the US who applied for American citizenship was deported after she admitted that she had once voted in an election. She had been employed as a registered nurse, but had to return to her native Peru.
On a visit to Philadelphia on Wednesday, Hans von Spakovsky of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, answered a Post-Gazette who asked about the above findings. Von Spakovsky replied, "It's more evidence that we have a problem," adding, "Especially because in each of these cases, the only reason the elections officials found out about it was because [the voters] said, 'Take me off.'" Moreover, said Von Spakovsky, "It's the tip of the iceberg."
Pennsylvania is one of 35 states that a recent study showed that has an online voter registration system that can be easily hacked. The study showed that by using computer programs, open-source information, and also illicit "darknet" sources, hackers can alter the names, home addresses, and other voter information on state websites.