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Did non-citizen immigrants illegally vote in election? A growing number want to know

“I think the voter rolls ought to be checked. Secretaries of states of each state ought to check whether people—there ought to be some way to check a database and whether somebody is a citizen or not." -Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Updated: December 9, 2020 - 8:37am

For more than a decade now, major research institutions like Harvard University and others have published surveys showing large numbers of non-citizen immigrants in America claim to have registered and voted in U.S. elections despite a legal prohibition. Now some Republicans are questioning whether such illegal voting could have impacted the outcome of the still-disputed November elections.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who this week filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate the election results in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia, said illegal ballots cast by non-citizen immigrants could have played a role in Joe Biden's wins in many states.

“Look, it could have, I mean, there's a lot of factors that could have had an impact on which way the election went,” Paxton told Just the News on Tuesday. “I think the voter rolls ought to be checked. Secretaries of States of each state ought to check whether people—there ought to be some way to check a database and whether somebody is a citizen or not. I think that's a pretty important question to know the answer to. Because, obviously, only citizens of this country have the right to vote.”

Paxton said whether a citizen is a Biden supporter or a Trump supporter, “you care about credible elections going forward, because it's not just one election we're talking about. We've got other elections going on that are not national elections that are affected by this, but we also have future elections that are going to be affected by this. So, the process, and making sure that we get this right, really matters, whatever the determination is on who's president is in some sense secondary to getting the process right for the future.”

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) has said he plans to challenge the Electoral College on Jan. 6 and try to keep Biden from being officially elected, telling the Just the News AM television program that votes cast by illegal immigrants were “probably the difference maker in this election.”

Though the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 prohibits non-citizens from voting in federal elections, punishing them by fines, imprisonment, inadmissibility and deportation, Brooks said Section Five of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act makes it illegal for voter registrars to insist on proof of citizenship from illegal aliens and non-citizens seeking to vote. 

“Now you would think that we would only want American citizens voting in American elections, and you would think that we would have a system in place that would make it easier, not harder, to discern, who is a non-citizen, who is an illegal alien in order to prevent them from getting that voter registration card,” Brooks said Monday on Just the News AM “But in 1993, the Democrats jammed through the House and the Senate and the White House legislation that made it illegal for our guards at the gate—our voter registrars—to stop illegal aliens and non-citizens from registering to vote, because the Democrats stripped them of the information that they need to discern who is an illegal alien and a non citizen.” 

Just the News previously reported on a study showing Biden received thousands of illegal votes from noncitizens in battleground states, according to the study by the nonprofit research group Just Facts, which looked at election results from seven key battleground states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, “If the lower end of these illegal vote estimates were removed from the vote tallies as of November 8, 2020, 2:00 AM EST, Donald Trump would be leading in states that have a total of 259 electoral votes, or 11 shy of the 270 needed to win the presidency,” wrote Just Facts President James D. Agresti. “If the upper end of the illegal vote estimates were removed, Trump would be leading in states that have 285 electoral votes, or 15 more than needed to win the presidency.”

According to 2017 data from the Pew Research Center, there were an estimated 25 million noncitizens living in the United States, including 12.3 million permanent residents, 2.2 million legal temporary residents and 10.5 million illegal immigrants. A 2012 survey by Harvard University and YouGov found that 14% of self-identified non-citizens said they were registered to vote, and an additional 9% said they "definitely" voted, and of that number, 80% said they voted for Democrat Barack Obama to be reelected that year. Harvard University and YouGov also found in its 2008 survey that 8% of self-declared non-citizens said “I definitely voted” in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, and 82% of the non-citizens who said “I definitely voted” stated that they voted for Barack Obama. 

Non-citizen voting likely changed 2008 outcomes, including Electoral College votes and the composition of Congress, according to a research paper titled  “Do non-citizens vote in US elections?” published in the bi-monthly, peer-reviewed academic  journal “Electoral Studies.”

The “Electoral Studies” research paper was conducted by Professor David C. Earnest, now chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of South Dakota, Jesse T. Richman, political science & geography professor at Old Dominion University and then-student Gulshan A. Chattha. It also found that non-citizens favor Democratic candidates over Republicans and that voter photo-identification rules have limited effect on non-citizen participation.

“Although such participation is a violation of election laws in most parts of the United States, enforcement depends principally on disclosure of citizenship status at the time of voter registration,” the authors wrote. “Non-citizen votes likely gave Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress.”

Following his unexpected 2016 presidential election, President Donald Trump "asserted in a private meeting with congressional leaders Monday night that he would have won the popular vote in the 2016 election if 3 million to 5 million immigrants living in the country illegally hadn’t voted,” the Associated Press reported in January 2017. 

However, in the subsequent months and years, the Trump administration did not move to root out these illegal voters, leading many political observers to claim that Trump’s claim was false or lacked evidence. In May 2017, Trump established a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity headed by Vice President Mike Pence to examine the issue of voter fraud, but that body did not enact major changes on illegal voting and ended in January 2018. 

One lawyer said the many years of illegal voting claims have never been backed up with concrete proof, the lifeline that courts rely on.

“If there is fraud, and if there is fraud in immigration in immigrants voting, if there's evidence—we deal as lawyers with evidence,” Attorney Richard Roth of The Roth Law Firm, a New York-based litigation firm, told Just the News AM  on Tuesday. “If there's evidence of that, then I think we have to look into it. The problem thus far is that with the team of lawyers that Donald Trump has had including [Rudy] Giuliani including [Sidney] Powell, including Jenna Ellis. They have not brought any actual fraud, systematic fraud, to the table.”

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