According to research conducted by the Public Interest Legal Foundation, more than 3,000 foreign nationals were listed on voter rolls in 13 jurisdictions known for the “sanctuary” status. So-called sanctuary jurisdictions limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities, especially when asked to detain illegal aliens long enough for federal authorities to take them into custody. Progressives, immigration advocates, and Democrats have made “sanctuary” policies into hot button political issues throughout the country. 

Research by the Public Interest Legal Foundation found that across 13 sanctuary cities and counties, 3,120 noncitizens were registered to vote and/or removed at various times from 2006 to 2018. The research identified significant trends indicating that noncitizens are often prompted by public assistance agency transactions (e.g. Motor Voter registration), registration/petition drives, and registration assistors. According to the research, in a majority of cases across the 13 locales, detection and removal of noncitizen voters were generally dependent on the noncitizens self-reporting their ineligible status at the risk of putting their immigration status at risk or even deportation. 

The breakdown of jurisdictions and foreign voters is as follows:

Arlington, Virginia — 145 voters
Chesterfield County, Virginia — 321 voters
Chicago, Illinois — 232 voters
DeKalb County, Georgia — 11 voters
Essex County, New Jersey — 107 voters
Fairfax County, Virginia — 1,334 voters
Middlesex County, New Jersey — 346 voters
New York, New York — 6 voters
Ocean County, New Jersey — 3 voters
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — 317 voters
Riverside County, California — 6 voters
San Diego County, California — 264 voters
San Francisco County, California — 28 voters

The study showed that foreign nationals are sometimes forced to enroll to vote by voter registration drives and government handouts. Those foreign nationals remained on the rolls unless they self-reported to authorities. According to the foundation, the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) is the reason why so many foreign nationals appear on voter rolls. Commonly known as the “Motor Voter” law,  NVRA was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton in 1993, requiring states to offer voter registration applications to any person applying for a driver’s license. In a statement, Public Interest Legal Foundation President J. Christian Adams said, “The failures of Motor Voter are clearly visible in sanctuary cities.” He added, “A terrible combination of bad Motor Voter enforcement, increasing chatter over noncitizen voting rights, and simple disregard for immigration law creates an environment for illegal voting.”

The study asserts that “aliens are getting on the rolls, aliens are voting, and in sanctuary jurisdictions they aren’t being prosecuted for doing so.” The study said that few sanctuary jurisdictions seek to actively detect unlawful, while none of those studied verify citizenship at the time of voter registration. 

Notable sanctuary jurisdictions not contemplated by the study include Los Angeles and Alameda Counties in California. The foundation said that neither of the two jurisdictions answered multiple requests for data originating from both the Foundation and local registered voters, allegedly in violation of federal law. 



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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