The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that Margarita Del Pilar Fitzpatrick, a resident alien who registered to vote illegally, can be deported for the act despite her claim that she did so at the direction of a DMV employee.
Fitzpatrick arrived in the country in 2002 and is married to a U.S. citizen. Fitzpatrick applied for an Illinois driver’s licence a few years after arriving in the country, court records show. During the process, the DMV clerk asked Fitzpatrick if she wished to register to vote, telling her “it’s up to you.”
“This case demonstrates just how weak our voter registration system is with respect to preventing illegal activity up front.”
In her appeal, Fitzpatrick’s lawyer, Richard Hanus, argued that the DMV employee’s direction constituted “official approval,” and that Fitzpatrick should therefore not be held responsible for her actions. Of course, it doesn’t take a law degree to know the “I was just following orders” defense does not routinely absolve culpability in a crime.
“This case demonstrates just how weak our voter registration system is with respect to preventing illegal activity up front,” Logan Churchwell, spokesman for the Public Interest Legal Foundation, told LifeZette in a written statement.
“A person presented a foreign passport to identify herself when getting a license for non-U.S. citizens. Still, a DMV officer must accept a completed voter registration application. Until states take the lead in implementing improved citizenship verification mechanisms in voter registration, we’re going to continue to see cases like this one,” Churchwell said.
The ruling comes only days after another resident alien, Rosa Maria Ortega, was sentenced to eight years in prison in Texas, to be followed inevitably by deportation, for voting illegally there in 2012 and 2014. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the ruling “shows how serious Texas is about keeping its elections secure.”
“The Trump administration has the right and responsibility to study the true extent of illegal voting by ineligible persons,” said Chris Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, in a prepared statement. “Hopefully, [the Fitzpatrick] case marks a new chapter for election integrity in the years ahead.”