Here’s One Easy Way to Clean Virginia Voter Rolls

... but only if you're a U.S. citizen.
… but only if you’re a U.S. citizen.

by James A. Bacon

Let’s pretend for a moment that Donald Trump did not create an uproar by claiming that the 2016 presidential elections are rigged. Let’s all take deep breaths, seek a meditative state of mind, and try to look dispassionately at the issue of voter fraud. Now let me advance a series of propositions.

First, we all can agree that only U.S. citizens should be allowed to vote in U.S. elections. A corollary to that proposition is that non-citizens should not be allowed to vote.

Second, we can agree that millions of non-citizens do live in the United States.

Third, we can agree that the National Voter Registration Act, which allows Americans to register while getting their drivers’ licenses, opened up a potential avenue for non-citizens to register illegally. Virginia requires no more proof from applicants than to check a box and affirm under penalty of perjury that they are citizens.

We do not know how often non-citizens register illegally, but the work of the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) has identified 1,046 non-citizens in eight localities who did so. Those non-citizens are known to have cast more than 200 ballots.

PILF’s numbers reflect only registrants who were caught in recent years: removed from voter rolls because someone had determined that they were not U.S. citizens. Most were identified by accident or chance, such as, for example, when someone claimed to be a citizen when receiving a driver’s license and later indicated he or she was not a citizen when renewing the license. The actual number of illegal voters in all 125 Virginia localities is likely much higher.

Fourth, whether the number is of sufficient size to skew election results or not, we can agree that registering illegally is, well… illegal. Furthermore, we can agree that local registrars, whose job is to uphold the integrity of the voting rolls, should institute formal procedures to remove non-citizens from the voting rolls — especially if the process is not onerously expensive and does not accidentally delete people who are qualified to vote.

Fifth — and here I know I’m going out on a limb — we can agree that every Virginia locality should periodically cross-reference its voting rolls with the federally administered Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database to detect ineligible alien registrants. If tools exist to keep voter rolls clean, then we should use them.


  1. Acbar

    Let’s agree up front that allowing non citizens to vote simply by self-certifying themselves as eligible citizens on a motor-voter application is (1) fraud and (2) naive, on the part of the Virginia bureaucrats who made it so easy.

    But how significant is it? How significant especially in light of the conspiracy theories rampant this year, as we approach the end of an election cycle marred by accusations of voter fraud which accusations display all the hallmarks of unhinged conspiracy paranoia? How significant when the real threat to government is the attack already launched from the Right on how unfair is the voting registration, the media, the reporting of government statistics, the gathering of government data and fact finding? We simply don’t need to feed that beast by trying for electoral reforms that make sense in the abstract but are not of burning urgency, and would inevitably taint our Republican legislature, like NC’s, with accusations of ulterior motivation.

    “It’s all rigged,,” says Mr Trump. The truth is, “voter fraud” is not within a mile of affecting the results, this year at least. Let’s hope this particular blip can be cleaned up by next November; but I’m not losing any sleep over it.

  2. Larrytheg

    first thing you need to do is recognize what fraud is and is not. fraud is an intentional act to deceive – not a mistake. Second -you have to ask – are mistakes made in voter registration and are there processes in place to detect and fix – because what this so-called “public interest group” is “reporting” is mistakes uncovered by the officials through their normal due diligence – as opposed to this “group” doing it’s own investigation and finding anything.

    Jim then mistakes how SAVE works – SAVE is a voluntary reporting system – if someone actually intends to commit fraud – they’re not going to submit information to SAVE to start with and especially so if they are present illegally. Check also for what info SAVE itself is requesting – it’s name and birthday and not much else because what they’re going to verifying immigration status rather than looking for illegals. ” SAVE’s mission is to provide fast, secure and reliable immigration status information to assist benefit-granting agencies in maintaining their program integrity.” So how would registrars actually use it anyhow other than submitting every person who registered and even then if they had not registered with SAVE there would be no ‘hit”?

    Finally – the so-called Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF). Despite it’s high sounding self-proclaimed name – check on the political history of the guy who is leading it – and then try to find out who is actually funding their “public interest’ operation. More dark money in play here making bogus claims about “fraud” and folks like Jim giving them credence when he should either know better or worse, actually considers the group – credible.

  3. baconius

    “Fraud is an intentional act to deceive – not a mistake.”

    What do you call it when non-citizens are documented to have cast more than 200 ballots — and that’s just eight out of 125 Virginia jurisdictions?

    Do I deduce from your comments that you are opposed to cleaning registered-voter lists of non-citizens?

  4. baconius

    I share your concern with Trump’s remark that the election is “rigged” and especially his unwillingness in the debate last night to affirm that he would accept the legitimacy of the election outcome. Trump is a disaster.

    However, one of the things feeding the sense among the Trumpkins is a fear that electoral fraud is real. Casual assertions that the problem is minimal, and therefore not worth addressing, are not reassuring in the least. PILF has documented more than 200 illegal ballots cast. Extrapolate from eight localities to 125, that could be 2,800 ballots. Then consider that even PILF’s methodology was conservative, in the sense that it counts only those registered voters who were caught, not those who have not been caught and could continue voting with impunity. And that is but one form of voter fraud.

    Why not just come out and say, “The problem really isn’t that big, but, what the heck, one illegally cast ballot is one too many, so, why not, let’s plug this hole?”

  5. djrippert

    I don’t know why Trump’s refusal to guarantee that he’d accept the election results is any kind of big deal. First, who cares? I assume he’d accept a victory. So, we’d have a guy who lost the election mumbling about how unfair it all was as he looked out the window of his high rise at Central Park. Gore didn’t exactly embrace the results in 2000. Even by 2002 Hillary was still insisting that Bush was selected not elected.

  6. Larrytheg

    PILF is not producing data – it’s merely using the records of the registrars which is documentation of their own efforts and processes to find and fix mistakes which unless you can prove intent – is not fraud.

    Trump is just an idiot… and the real horror is the number of folks signed on in support of him.. Trump is a real reflection of us….

  7. Acbar

    I agree, Trump was being utterly consistent to say again during the debate what he’s already said in so many words in numerous speeches. I think it’s a big deal only because saying it on national television gives lots of down-ballot Republicans the cover they need to cut and run from a loser — and because it gives lots of Democrats the ammunition to jump all over those Republicans who haven’t yet cut and run — and because it finally seems to have got through a few of the thicker skulls out there that Trump is not just running against HC, not just against the “establishment” whatever that is, but against the fundamental commitment of the citizens of the United States to the rule of law.