“. . . Rome’s liberties were not auctioned off in a day, but were bought slowly, gradually, furtively, little by little.
— Mark Twain (1835-1910)
The 2008 presidential election may well turn on the voting of illegal aliens, who along with other non-citizens, are ineligible even to register to vote but in some cases still find a way.
During the past decade, the National Commission on Federal Election Reform found that “non-citizens do vote, albeit illegally.” The Commission also found that 261 counties reported more registered voters than they have residents – –to the tune of tens of thousands of phantom voters. Recent election studies conclude that the methodology for determining the percentage of voters who are U.S. citizens is a challenge. Unqualified people, among them illegal aliens, are diluting the value of the citizen vote. Non-citizen voters, once an oxymoron, are sadly now the status quo.
Although the U.S. Constitution does not address voter registration per se, the election law that has evolved over the years sets the following rules: A voter must be a U.S. citizen (by birth or naturalization), must not be a convicted felon or be found mentally incompetent, and must be 18 years or older. A correlated requirement is that applicants for U.S. citizenship must be able to speak, read, and write English. Other than these basics, each governmental unit (local, state, or federal) determines its own voter registration rules.
Immigration advocates are pushing to have illegal aliens vote in the upcoming elections. States (such as California, Maine, Massachusetts, Texas, and Vermont) and cities (such as Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.) circumvent U.S. election law by permitting non-citizens to vote in local and state elections and therefore in federal elections.
In the recent Nevada caucuses, a federal judge ruled that the Democratic Party could set up special caucus sites in Las Vegas casinos for union workers, who had only to show a union membership card to enter the caucus. Did anyone check to see if these workers were, in fact, U.S. citizens? It was apparent from the television coverage that many of the union workers spoke no English.
The United States is a nation of laws, and aiding and abetting illegal aliens in their unlawful voting is a violation of U.S. law.
Evolution of Election Laws
Over the years, changes to the election laws have been made by Congress. Many of these changes have been for the common good, but others have had destructive consequences.1776–1830. During the Continental era, the right to vote was held by free white men of property and of certain religious persuasions (no Catholics or Jews needed apply).1830. From the 1830s up through the Civil War, all white men 21 years of age or older could vote.1855. Connecticut and Massachusetts adopted “literacy tests” to prevent citizens of Irish Catholic descent from exercising their right to vote.1870. The post Civil War 15th Amendment gave all citizen men the right to vote.1920. The 19th Amendment, which reads simply that the voting rights of citizens of the United States shall not be denied on the basis of sex, was ratified in 1920. Citizen women finally won the vote, after 72 years of lobbying.1924. Native Americans were granted voting privileges in 1924, with the right to vote in federal elections.1961. The 25th Amendment, passed in 1961, gave citizen residents of the District of Columbia the right to vote in presidential elections. 1965. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 took steps to assure that citizens who were members of racial minorities could freely exercise their right to vote. This law eliminated poll taxes and literacy tests. Congress, that same year, passed the Immigration and Naturalization Services Act (INSA), which opened the door to Third-World immigrants.1971. The 26th Amendment provided that U.S. citizens 18 years of age or older, as of 1971, were able to vote.
1975. The Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended in 1975, began chipping away at the qualifications for citizenship by providing language assistance for minority voters. Voters speaking Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Native American, or Eskimo languages were to receive special help at the polls. Congress passed the amendment without bothering to change the provision requiring a person seeking U.S. citizenship to speak, read, and write English.1986. The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986 was well-intentioned but has proved to have structural flaws. For instance, the 2000 presidential election in Florida saw the Democratic Party attempting to block absentee ballots of U.S. sailors.
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), which neither reformed nor controlled, continued the chipping away of U.S. citizenship. IRCA introduced amnesty for illegal aliens and triggered the current tidal wave of border crashers, many of whom are voting illegally in U.S. elections.1993. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), also known as the Motor-Voter Act, allowed people to register to vote while applying for a driver’s license — a bad idea. This legislation, by making a farce of national election rolls, has left state and local officials unable to account for millions of people who have died or moved or who are non-citizens. NVRA also provided for voter registration by mail.
The Motor-Voter Act works like this: In 1994, a non-English speaking woman was observed in line using an interpreter to apply for and pass the Florida driver’s test. The clerk then asked if she wished to register to vote. As her interpreter translated the message, the woman looked shocked and shook her head, no. The clerk pressed on saying, “You have a driver’s license now, and the law says we must help you register to vote. Just say, yes.” Thus the right to vote was forced upon an obvious non-citizen. This is, by no means, an isolated incident.
Another example: In 2008, a U.S. district judge in Florida sentenced to prison a former employee of a county tax collector’s office for peddling more than 150 driver’s licenses to illegal aliens at $200 a head. Under the Motor-Voter Law, holders of these fraudulent licenses were then able to register to vote.2002. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) opened the floodgates for non-citizen voters. A prospective voter need only produce a valid driver’s license or the last four digits of the voter’s social security number — verification of which does not establish U.S. citizenship. For those with no ID, the state will issue an identification number, issuance of which does not establish U.S. citizenship. Mail-in registration is easier yet — a person need only provide a copy of a current utility bill, a bank statement, a paycheck, or similar document with the person’s name and address. None of which establishes U.S. citizenship.
HAVA applies only to federal elections but through federal funding is now influencing state and local voting as well. The law was in reaction to voter confusion linked to poor ballot design in Florida during the 2000 presidential election.
Rather than address ballot design, however, HAVA changed the voter mail-in registration form, adding the question, “Are you a citizen of the United States of America?” This question was followed by boxes for the applicant to check yes or no. The Democrat Party, the ACLU, labor unions, and others have filed lawsuits to permit persons to vote via mail-in registration without having to check the citizenship boxes.
With a $10 billion annual budget, HAVA provides funds to the states to assure that voting is “fair and accurate.” The states are supposed to use the money to improve voting with new voting machines, voter assistance for the disabled, aged, and language-challenged, and voter education, including mock elections.
The ripple effect of HAVA includes establishment of the Election Assistance Commission with members, staff power, and funding; the Election Assistance Commission Standards Board, the Election Assistance Commission Board of Advisors, and the Technical Guidelines Development Committee. These HAVA spin-offs work with State Boards of Elections (SBOE), which in turn add more commissions and boards to promulgate additional rules and regulations to Help America Vote; note that the name of the law is not Help U.S. Citizens Vote.
Despite billions of federal dollars, HAVA has not stopped allegations of fraud and ballot failures in the 2004 and 2006 elections. Now electronic voting is being challenged and a return to paper ballots is being recommended by the same experts who found paper ballots faulty.
2005. Several Democrat senators introduced legislation to do away with any identification requirements for voters; mere affirmation of identity would be sufficient.
2006. President George W. Bush signed a 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1975, which provides language assistance at the polls for non-English speakers. This law is now effective through 2031.
Limit the Vote to U.S. Citizens
The combined immigration and election laws passed during the past 43 years have indeed diminished and diluted the vote of U.S. citizens. Public opinion polls, among them an MIT survey, find that more than 75 percent of U.S. citizens support strict and enforced election fraud laws, including the requirement for a government-issued photo identification at the time of balloting.
The author is a former federal prosecutor and former Associate General Counsel of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Department of Justice.
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