by Jack Minor -
Following Congressional testimony that 5,000 illegals may have voted in the last election, a spokesman for Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler contacted the Gazette to explain his remarks.
The Gazette reported that Gessler told Congress nearly 12,000 illegal aliens were registered to vote and up to 5,000 may have cast votes in the last general election.
Andrew Cole, a spokesman with Gessler’s office, said he was attempting to make a point that our current system does not have the capability to effectively confirm with certainty the eligibility of voters in the state.
In his statement before Congress, Gessler was able to say they were only “nearly certain that 106 individuals are improperly registered to vote.” Cole explained the 5,000 number arose from individuals who were identified as being ineligible to vote at the time they obtained their driver’s license.
Under Colorado law, non-citizens are allowed to obtain a driver’s license provided they are in the state legally. However, they are still not eligible to vote as that right is relegated to citizens of the United States.
In 2006 the Department of Revenue began collecting information on the types of documentation provided to establish lawful residence in the state when applying for a license. From 2006 to mid-February 2011, 211,200 drivers licenses were given to non-citizens that showed they were in the state legally. Individuals wishing to register to vote can either apply while getting their license or do so at a later date.
By comparing the two databases, Gessler’s office discovered 11,805 were non-citizens at the time they obtained their license and then registered to vote at a later date. The number did not include applicants who provided another state driver’s license as proof of legal status. Records showed that almost 42 percent of those non-citizens registered to vote, actually cast ballots in the 2010 election.
Gessler said it was a reasonable assumption that many of the 42 percent were, in fact, ineligible because most green card holders must wait three to five years to apply for citizenship. With the data going back to 2006 it is unlikely that all the green card holders became residents by the time they registered, but the state could not say with certainty what the actual numbers are.
Cole said with the current system in place it is impossible to get accurate numbers. This is because there is no way to confirm if those who were not eligible voters at the time they received their licenses later became citizens and thus, eligible to vote.
Another problem is accidental registration. Cole noted that their own databases showed 154 people registered to vote as non-citizens voluntarily withdrew their registrations over the past two years.
In his testimony before Congress, Gessler mentioned several suggestions to help insure registered voters are eligible, such as legislation allowing his office to handle the issue. HB1252 would have permitted the Secretary of State’s office to send letters to individuals when a discrepancy is found. The individual would then be able to provide the proper documentations showing they were naturalized and eligible to vote.
He said the federal government was not doing all it could to assist the state in verifying eligible voters. Federal Court districts ask a question about US citizenship when they survey prospective jurors. These lists could help provide a further analysis against the voter rolls to help determine the citizenship status of registered voters.
A request for such information was sent to the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The court denied the request for information saying the information is for the court’s use only.
Gessler said they know there is a problem with non-citizens voting in elections, but without additional resources they have no way of identifying how widespread the problem is. Cole said Gessler’s intention was to shine a light on the problem and show the need for greater verification that every voter is in fact eligible to cast a ballot.