Study: More Than 7,400 Illegal Votes Cast in Virginia Since 2011
Election-integrity watchdog finds swing-state ballots counted for over 1,800 non-citizens
Maureen Erickson applied for and received a voter-registration card in Virginia despite listing her home address in Guatemala.
The home address in Guatemala apparently was not enough to sound alarms among elections officials in Prince William County, who let Erickson cast ballots in 14 different elections, according to records obtained by the Public Interest Legal Foundation. Officials finally removed Erickson’s name from the rolls for being a non-citizen in 2012.
“In this election year, aliens must not cast illegal ballots, and if they do they must be prosecuted.”
Erickson is far from unique. In a report released Monday, the Public Interest Legal Foundation details how elections officials quietly removed 5,556 non-citizens from 2011 to May of this year. The organization determined that 1,852 of those who were non-citizens had voted in past elections. In fact, the foundation counted 7,474 illegal ballots cast by non-citizens, some dating as far back as the 1980s.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation obtained the records from all 133 Virginia jurisdictions after a protracted legal battle. J. Christian Adams, president and general counsel of the foundation, said the findings should be a wake-up call and faulted Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe for blocking efforts to ensure that only eligible voters cast ballots in this year’s elections for statewide offices.
“In this election year, aliens must not cast illegal ballots, and if they do they must be prosecuted,” he said in a prepared statement. “Let’s pray that Gov. McAuliffe’s veto pen did not invite a close election tainted by fraud.”
In another example, resident William Gray of Nokesville, Virginia, registered to vote in 2007, checking “yes” in response to a question about whether he was an American citizen. Three years later, he answered “no” when asked the same question in his driver’s license renewal form.
The discrepancy raised an obvious red flag. However, officials at the voter registration office in Nokesville did not cancel his voter registration, refer the case for possible investigation, or apparently trigger any further investigation. Instead, they mailed Gray an “Affirmation of Citizenship” form. Gray signed it and remained on the voter rolls until 2015, when voter registration officials removed his name after finally determining that he was not a citizen.
Under Virginia law, voter-registration officials must give voters another chance to affirm their citizenship and take their word for it if they do.
5,556 Non-Citizen Voters Since 2011
Since the 5,556 non-citizen voters include only those who self-reported their status, the Public Interest Legal Foundation contends that the actual number of ineligible voters on the rolls is many times higher.
“We’re still on the honor system, even when that honor is questioned,” said Logan Churchwell, a spokesman for the foundation.
Monday’s report is a follow-up to one published by the Public Interest Legal Foundation last year, which detailed 1,046 illegally cast ballots in Virginia. But that included data from only eight jurisdictions that cooperated with the organization’s request.
|Jurisdictions with most illegal voters*|
|Fairfax County||1 104||1 018|
|Prince William Co.||475||523|
Linda Lindberg, the director of elections in Arlington County, wrote in an internal email in February that the foundation was misrepresenting the registration records.
“Please be aware that the data on this report is NOT accurate and will be misinterpreted and misrepresented by this organization, as they have already done with the data previously received,” she wrote.
But the organization maintains that many local jurisdictions are far from aggressive in maintaining accurate rolls. The report cites 13 cities and counties that have not removed a single non-citizen in six years.
Churchwell said the group could not find a single instance in the past six years in which a non-citizen faced criminal charges for registering to vote or casting ballots.
“In all our shuffling through records and asking, we haven’t seen a single referral,” he said. “I think it’s noteworthy you don’t have a single case.”
Governor Accused of Resistance
The foundation accused McAuliffe and his appointees of pressuring jurisdictions not to cooperate and has show little interest in safeguarding the rolls.
“We had to file three lawsuits to get this information,” Churchwell said. “Roadblocks were put up every which way.”
McAuliffe has vetoed a number of bills aimed at improving the integrity of elections. According to a roundup included in the report released Monday, that includes a proposal to require registrars to investigate possible system failures if voter rolls have more people than the number of voting-age citizens. He also vetoed bills requiring registrars to cross-reference voter-registration applications against state and federal databases; to provide more resources to help identify voters registered in other jurisdictions; and to extend voter identification rules to absentee ballots.
According to the report, McAuliffe in 2015 also explored the idea of making it optional for new voters to attest on registration forms that they are citizens.
Other elections officials expressed contempt for the foundation. The report includes an email from Larry Haake, who at the time was the general registrar for Chesterfield County, in which he grudgingly told employees that they had to comply with the group’s document request.
"Do not underestimate the depth to which these PILF lowlifes will go to embarrass voters and harass us," he wrote. "They are fully aware the particular report they want is misrepresentative of the actual truth, but the truth is clearly not what they want."
Adams, a former career prosecutor in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, wrote a book, "Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department," in 2011 shortly after leaving the government. Since founding the Public Interest Legal Foundation, he has taken advantage of a provision of the National Voter Registration Act that allows third parties to sue in order force proper maintenance of the voter rolls.
The organization has sued dozens of jurisdictions for failing to remove dead and ineligible voters and has uncovered documented cases of ineligible voters casting ballots.
The report published Monday lists a number of state and local elections in Virginia in recent years that were decided by handfuls of votes. The most prominent example occurred in 2013, when Democrat Mark Herring defeated Republican Mark Obenshain by just 907 votes out of more than 2.2 million cast.