Kansas this week did something that almost never happens: It convicted a non-citizen for voting.
Victor David Garcia Bebek pleaded guilty to voter fraud after admitting that he registered to vote in 2011, according to The Kansas City Star.
“This is the tip of the iceberg. Few people are willing to take a closer look to see. The reality is that our system and our polls are as porous as our borders.”
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It is the first time that Kansas has successfully prosecuted a non-citizen for voting. The case is an anomaly across the country. Prosecution for voter fraud is rare in general; cases involving non-citizens casting ballots are even more unusual.
But the reasons for that are hotly debated. The Left generally argues that such cases are rare because the activity, itself, is uncommon. But advocates for voter integrity maintain that the electoral system simply is not designed to catch fraudulent voting.
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” said Catherine Engelbrecht, founder of True the Vote. “Few people are willing to take a closer look to see. The reality is that our system and our polls are as porous as our borders.”
In the Kansas case, Secretary of State Kris Kobach told The Kansas City Star that Bebek voted illegally three times — in a 2012 special election and in the 2012 and 2014 general elections. At the time, he was a Peruvian immigrant living in Sedgwick County. After he became a citizen earlier this year, voter-registration officials signing him up to vote discovered he already had been on the rolls since 2011.
“No matter how many cases we prosecute, the political Left will always whine that there’s not enough cases to justify protecting our elections in this way,” Kobach told the paper. “That’s absurd.”
The Public Interest Legal Foundation last year found more than 1,000 ineligible voters on the rolls in eight Virginia counties. The group also found 86 non-citizens who were registered to vote over a three-year period in Philadelphia. Some even had cast ballots. The only reason the elections officials were aware of the non-citizen voting is because the voters themselves asked to be removed from the rolls.
None of the ineligible voters in Virginia or Pennsylvania led to prosecutions.
Logan Churchwell, a spokesman for the Public Interest Legal Foundation, said voter fraud is often a low priority for prosecutors. He added that they often catch flack when they do pursue such cases. He pointed to sympathetic coverage that a Texas woman attracted after authorities there prosecuted her for voting illegally.
Mexican immigrant Rose Maria Ortega in February received an eight-year prison sentence and faces likely deportation. She claimed she did not understand the difference between rights accorded to citizens and legal residents when she voted in 2012 and 2014, according to local media coverage.
“There is already a massive PR effort to try to sway the public away from thinking people should be prosecuted,” Churchwell said.
He noted that Kansas is the only state that invests its secretary of state with authority to prosecute voter fraud.
“In any other state, all they can do is call the local district attorney’s office,” he said.
Churchwell said America’s elections rest largely on the honor system. There is no systematic method for spotting illegal voters, he said.
Sometimes, Churchwell added, it is as simple as an immigrant acknowledging on a citizenship application or other document that he or she has voted.
“You usually only do it by happenstance,” he said. “Somebody always has to make a mistake. They out themselves.”
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Some states during the previous administration tried to gain access to a Department of Homeland Security database to cross-reference immigration data with their voter-registration rolls. But Churchwell said the previous administration allowed only searches for specific immigrants, using an alien identification number.
Churchwell said new Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly could move to make records more easily available to states. Those records include such things as illegal immigrants caught at the border, citizenship applications, and other data.
“Sessions and Kelly can practically snap their fingers to start making these changes if they want to,” he said.
Engelbrecht suggested that if enforcement critics are right that voter fraud is practically nonexistent, there is no harm in making sure.
“Let’s just look and find out,” she said.