Pennsylvania state elections officials are hiding data on noncitizen voters, obscuring what could be as many as 100,000 illegal voters in the crucial swing state, according to a federal lawsuit filed Monday.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), which promotes “clean” voter registration rolls across the country, has sought records from Pennsylvania required under the so-called motor voter law. The law, formally known as the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), allows members of the public to inspect records related to registered voters.
Pennsylvania twice rejected PILF’s request, triggering Monday’s lawsuit.
“For months, Pennsylvania bureaucrats have concealed facts about noncitizens registering and voting — that ends today,” PILF President and general counsel J. Christian Adams said in a statement. “Before this lawsuit, the state admitted to a ‘glitch’ that exposed thousands of driver’s license customers to voter registration offers despite their noncitizen status since the 1990s.”
Adams noted that the secretary of state abruptly resigned in October. Adams added that his organization “hopes to finally get answers about the true scale of noncitizen voting in Pennsylvania and assist lawmakers in crafting reforms that fix it.”
The civil complaint names acting Secretary of State Robert Torres and Jonathan Marks, the commissioner of the Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation, as defendants. A spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office said the office does not comment on pending litigation.
PILF has been highlighting voting irregularities since at least 2015, when it reported that 86 registered voters in the city of Philadelphia asked elections officials between 2013 and 2015 to be removed from the rolls because they were not U.S. citizens.
Al Schmidt, a Philadelphia city commissioner, later testified before a state legislative committee that 220 noncitizens successfully registered to vote between 2006 and 2017, and that 90 of them had cast 277 ballots.
Schmidt blamed it on a “glitch” in the driver’s license system.
“Transparency was built into this by both federal law and most state laws.”
Marks testified that his agency had found 1,160 canceled voter registrations from 46 counties due to voters alerting officials that they were noncitizens and should not be on the rolls. Of that group, 248 people from 30 counties voted at least once.
According to Schmidt’s testimony, the Department of State has completed the Noncitizen Matching Analysis pointing to more than 100,000 matches, meaning that more than 100,000 noncitizens could be registered to vote in the state.
Hans von Spakovsky, a former member of the Federal Election Commission (FTC), who served on President Donald Trump’s voter integrity commission, said Schmidt’s estimate for the number of illegal voters is troubling if it is close to accurate.
“That’s a lot of illegal votes,” he told LifeZette.
Von Spakovsky, who serves as manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said there is no excuse for withholding information about voter registration.
“Transparency was built into this by both federal law and most state laws,” he said.
Von Spakovsky said he could think of only one explanation.
“The only reason for a state to want to avoid providing that information … is because they want to avoid embarrassment over allowing it to happen,” he said.
The lawsuit includes eight exhibits detailing actual voters who had been removed from the rolls because they were not citizens. Some of them were able to register again after their removal.
For instance, one record indicates that Othman Alamoudi registered to vote in Allegheny County in 2005 through the driver’s license office. In 2012, officials canceled Alamoudi’s voter registration after determining he was not a citizen. But then in 2014, he re-registered as a voter, this time through an application in the mail, and voted in the 2014 general election.
County officials canceled his registration a second time after he moved to Mercer County. After relocating, he registered a third time — and currently is an active voter, who cast a ballot in the 2016 election.
As another example, the suit points to Susan Hermanoche, who registered in Allegheny County, was canceled in 2006 because she was not a citizen and then registered to vote two more times. Records show she voted in the 2008 primary and the general elections in 2010, 2012 and 2016 — all after officials initially flagged her as a noncitizen. She remains an active voter today, according to the suit.
PILF argues the problem could be bigger since there is no systemic effort to identify and remove ineligible voters.
“In large measure, the illegal voter registrations detailed in these records were self-reported aliens. There was no active process in place to detect and remove them,” the suit states.