With great fanfare, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro announced that the commonwealth will begin implementing automatic voter registration. Automatic voter registration means that when Pennsylvanians get driver’s licenses or state-issued government IDs they will automatically be registered to vote unless they opt out. Currently, people opt in to register to vote.
This may on the surface sound like a good thing. After all, we all want every American who wants to exercise his or her right to vote to be able to have their voice heard at the ballot box. But a deeper look at automatic voter registration reveals it often exacerbates errors on the voter roll.
Based on real data, Pennsylvania is the last place that should be implementing this risky plan. Over the last 20 years, no state has performed worse in keeping ineligible, duplicated and even foreigners off state voter rolls.
We can all agree it has never been easier to register and vote as it is in 2023. Under the National Voter Registration Act, more commonly known as Motor Voter, states are required to offer voter registration when individuals are getting their driver’s licenses or other forms of state ID.
Motor Voter has been a wild success in making it easier to register to vote. Pennsylvania, unfortunately, has struggled with preventing the ineligible from finding their way onto voter rolls, as you will see.
Only an honor system prevents non-citizens from registering to vote. All non-citizens need to do is mark the box “yes” that they are a United States citizen. The English- language voter registration form is sometimes in a language that they do not understand.
Many times foreign nationals are registered to vote even after they told Pennsylvania election officials they were not a United States citizen when they checked the citizenship box “no.”
These foreign nationals who unwittingly register or are registered by the government by mistake have their immigration status jeopardized. These mistakes can even lead to deportation.
For two decades, foreign nationals were registering to vote in Pennsylvania by the thousands. Don’t take my word for it. In 2017, Secretary of State Robert Torres said so. Al Schmidt, then a member of the Philadelphia City Commissioners, testified before the Pennsylvania Senate that he was briefed by State Department officials on a department study that identified more than 100,000 registered voters who may lack U.S. citizenship. Whatever the actual number, there no denying it was a real problem.
Additionally, Schmidt demanded transparency and called on the department to release the details of their findings to county election boards. Remember that one.
Following his testimony, the Public Interest Legal Foundation requested under federal election transparency laws that the State Department provide documents to show their work to identify the 100,000 potential foreign nationals. When Torres refused the request, the foundation sued in federal court.
Five years later, the commonwealth is still fighting to keep these records from the public. In an ironic turn of events, Schmidt is now the secretary of State. Where is the transparency he called for in the past?
When Pennsylvania refuses to be transparent about past errors regarding registering foreign nationals, they should not be going to an automatic voter registration system that will greatly increase the risk of foreign nationals ending up on the voter roll by mistake. Automatic voter registration is not good for election integrity or the foreign nationals who will be the ones who suffer from the possibility of deportation.
Reprinted with Permission from TRIB LIVE – By J. Christian Adams