According to a lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania, more than 100,000 noncitizens are registered to vote in Pennsylvania alone. The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), a nonpartisan advocacy group which has identified similar noncitizen voting in New Jersey and Virginia, submitted testimony that officials in Pennsylvania have admitted that non-U.S. citizens have been registering and voting in the state “for decades.” The lawsuit was filed in Harrisburg on Monday.
Pennsylvania state officials have shut down requests from PILF for information that could shed further light on the problem and offer means to a solution. “For months, Pennsylvania bureaucrats have concealed facts about noncitizens registering and voting — that ends today,” PILF President and General Counsel J. Christian Adams said.
Adams claims that the state has admitted to a “glitch” that dates to the 1990s that had allowed non-Americans to have an opportunity to register to vote when applying to renew their driver’s licenses, PILF is seeking to know what is the magnitude of the problem. Pennsylvania officials have not yet responded to the lawsuit, nor to the claim of 100,000 non-citizen voters.
PILF is basing its figure on testimony provided by Philadelphia Commissioner Al Schmidt, who revealed the glitch in the state motor vehicle bureau’s systems. The organization obtained records from some county officials, and then filed findings in the new court case. However, the Pennsylvania Department of State is alleged by PILF to have failed to provide “unfettered inspection of originally requested documents” in the case.
According to PILF, a man identified as Felipe Rojas-Orta canceled his voter registration last year by filing a handwritten note stating that he was not a U.S. citizen. He had registered as a Democrat and voted in three separate elections, most recently in 2016, when Donald Trump won the presidential race.
In a memo that PILF filed in the lawsuit, PILF stated:
- “Aliens Registered and Voting: The complaint contains election records related to seven aliens who registered to vote and were voluntarily removed after self-reporting their status.12 Some voted multiple times in federal and state elections. One alien was even registered three times at once, voted, was canceled for being a non-citizen, and amazingly was reregistered even after being caught. The complaint provides copies to the court of the election records in seven instances like this. The records were obtained because some counties complied with the same information requests that the state denied.”
The federal so-called “motor-voter” law that requires states to make voter registration available at motor vehicle bureaus, also requires states to monitor the voter rolls purged of ineligible voters. The law also allows private parties to sue states that fail to perform.
Trump endorses GOP challenge in Pennsylvania
In a Saturday tweet, Trump wrote that the court-ordered redistricting of the congressional district map in the Keystone State was “very unfair to Republicans and to our country.” “Democrat judges have totally redrawn election lines in the great State of Pennsylvania,” Trump wrote. “This is very unfair to Republicans and to our country as a whole. Must be appealed to the United States Supreme Court ASAP!”
Current congressional districts in Pennsylvania
Typically, Pennsylvania is a swing state. The new map could be effective in allowing Democrats to regain control of the House of Representatives in the November mid-term election. The new map eliminates the advantage enjoyed heretofore by the GOP in Pennsylvania by endangering several incumbent Republican seats and improving the chances of Democrats in two open races.
Last month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled along party lines and struck down the state’s congressional district map. In its opinion, the court said gerrymandering had “clearly, plainly and palpably” violated the state constitution. When Republicans and Gov. Tom Wolf (D) could not agree on a map, the court imposed one. Republicans refused to accept the decision and have asked the Supreme Court to intervene and block the map imposed by the state court. In addition, the GOP filed a federal lawsuit in Pennsylvania that argues that the state court violated its constitutional authority by eliminating the old map and begetting a new one.
Pennsylvania congressional district map as re-drawn by state supreme court
According to Professor Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball handicappers at the University of Virginia, “If the Democrats do win the House by just a few seats in November, it’s possible that the new Pennsylvania map will have made the difference.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette contends that under the court-imposed map, incumbents will face "suddenly new electorates" and some "challengers now live in new districts. Some have seen political opportunities wiped out. Others have seen new chances suddenly arise." The paper foresees a near-certain gain for Democrats in a competitive race in Delaware County." Additionally, the Post-Gazette noted, "Tough contests based in Chester County and the Lehigh Valley have moved in Democrats’ favor. A tight Bucks County district also edged slightly their way. And once-safe Republican districts centered on York County and in Western Pennsylvania could shape up as competitive battles, if a Democratic wave emerges. They weren’t even on the radar a week ago."
According to the 270towin website, "Any approved redrawing of the lines will almost certainly benefit Democrats in November. In an already very competitive year, this will provide additional opportunities for that party to gain the 24 seats they will need to take control of the U.S. House."
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.