Noncitizen Voting Disenfranchises American Citizens

Many on the left minimize voter fraud – including illegal voting by noncitizens – dismissing it as either a baseless “right-wing” talking point or a malicious xenophobic myth to allegedly justify suppressing the vote. For instance, the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice claims that voter “fraud is very rare. Yet repeated, false allegations of fraud can make it harder for millions of eligible Americans to participate in elections.” In other words: nothing to see here, folks. However, the case of 19 foreign nationals charged last month with illegal voting in North Carolina shows that noncitizen voter fraud remains a problem.

On August 13, twelve noncitizens were charged in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina with misdemeanor charges for unlawfully casting ballots in the 2016 presidential election. On August 31, a federal grand jury in Wilmington charged seven foreign nationals on federal felony charges including falsely claiming U.S. citizenship or making false statements on voter registration application, in addition to misdemeanor charges for voting illegally four years ago.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the charged individuals were citizens of various countries throughout the world, including: Mexico, Guatemala, Malaysia, Cuba, Yemen, Nigeria, Israel, Canada, India, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and communist China.

The ICE press release also notes that “these most-recent indictments stem from an ongoing HSI [Homeland Security Investigations] investigation that previously resulted in separate indictments in the Eastern District of North Carolina in August 2018.”

The nationalities of the 19 foreign citizens indicted two years ago, also for illegally voting in 2016, were equally diverse (e.g. Mexico, the Philippines, Nigeria, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Haiti, Germany, and Poland). An American – a former official with the North Carolina Board of Elections – had also been charged in connection with the 2018 indictments because she had advised and attempted to register her Mexican citizen boyfriend to vote “if he wanted his voice to be heard” (the woman was eventually sentenced to two months in prison, followed by one year of probation, in February 2019).

As previously mentioned, some – primarily on the left – often claim that incidents of voter fraud such as the ones above are isolated, “exceedingly rare” exceptions that do not impact our elections in any meaningful way. Others, including FAIR, would argue that the indictments in North Carolina (both from this August and from 2018) are likely only the tip on an iceberg.

However, regardless of the extent of noncitizen voting, the reality remains that any votes unlawfully cast by foreign nationals cancel out the votes of American citizens. That is the great irony of the left screaming “attempted voter suppression” every time noncitizen voter fraud is brought up.

Those who are dismissive about foreign citizens voting illegally also seem not to appreciate the potential of their nonchalance to encourage more noncitizen voting. That is because their constant assurances that it is “very/exceedingly rare” are not only reflections of complacency, but lull other Americans into complacency as well.

Also keep in mind that some (again, almost exclusively on the left) actually consider noncitizen voting a desirable aim (e.g. see here, here, and here). The reasoning? Well, noncitizens reside in the U.S. and pay taxes … as if that was all that citizenship entailed or required. In fact, such a radical policy would all but render American citizenship meaningless.

To prevent American voters from being de facto disenfranchised, we must be vigilant about the dangers and potential of illegal voting by foreign nationals. Such vigilance is not some sinister, xenophobic plot to suppress the vote. Instead, it is a realistic recognition of the fact that noncitizen voter fraud occurs and that there is a potential for it a country with a foreign-born, noncitizen population (both legal and illegal) as large as the one the United States has.

That is why, to ensure the integrity of our elections, FAIR supports the implementation of voter ID requirements for all elections, including federal ones. This should be supplemented by the consistent use of an automated eligibility verification system, such as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program, to check citizenship status. Of course, those who minimize the extent of noncitizen (and other kinds of) voter fraud usually also staunchly oppose Voter ID, claiming that it is “discriminatory.” However, whether they realize it or not, the notion that naturalized citizens and minorities are somehow incapable of obtaining the proper identification to vote is a form of what some call “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” 

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