U.S. House Republicans look to prevent noncitizen voting, political donations

"In effect, federal law forces the states to use the honor system. This is unacceptable," said Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd.

The chairman of the Committee on House Administration, Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Wis.), questioned witnesses at a committee hearing titled “American Confidence in Elections: Confronting Zuckerbucks, Private Funding of Election Administration” in Washington on Feb. 7, 2024. (NTD)

Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Wis.) opened a recent congressional hearing on noncitizens voting in U.S. elections with a strong statement against the practice.

“Only Americans should be contributing and voting in our elections,” he said at the start of the May 16 hearing on the issues of noncitizen voting and foreign interference in elections.

Mr. Steil, chairman of the Committee on House Administration, warned that immediate and effective action must be taken to prevent these things, considering the 7 million illegal immigrants who have entered the country under the Biden administration. He said that 100 noncitizens were recently discovered on Ohio’s voter rolls.

Rep. Joe Morelle (D-N.Y.), the ranking member on the committee, responded that there was no proof of noncitizens voting and what the committee should be dealing with is the “MAGA Republicans howling about this nonissue.” He said they were following former President Donald Trump “down the path of insurrection.” Mr. Morelle mentioned the events at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as an illustration.

Later in the hearing, Mr. Morelle said that the continuing insistence that there is fraud in the election system is “insanity” and is the reason “why we are panicked about 2024.” He said that President Trump and his allies are deliberately “planting the seeds of doubt if he loses in 2024.”

Mr. Morelle also decried President Trump’s “Mandate for Leadership Project 2025” as an attempt to “reshape the federal government.”

Together with the Heritage Foundation, President Trump’s aides are working on Project 2025, an effort to vet and recruit qualified and effective conservatives to be ready to fill several thousand key political appointments in the executive branch upon his second inauguration, should he win the November election.

‘Election denial is the real threat’

Witness Michael Waldman of the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice called Project 25 an unprecedented “expansion of executive power” that would result in “purging the federal workforce, taking control of the Justice Department, and seizing noncitizens.” He said such actions are “far different from what the founders intended.”

Mr. Morelle said one goal of a second Trump administration would be to prevent women nationwide from accessing an abortion.

Rep. Norma Torres, a Democrat from California, called the Jan. 6 protest a “violent attack” and a “threat to democracy.”

Speaking of the American election system as a whole, Mr. Waldman testified that elections are secure and that “election denial is the real threat.” He cited a recent Brennan Center survey that found that 38 percent of local election officials report “experiencing threats, harassment, or abuse.”

“This abuse has increased in volume over the past year,” he said.

Mr. Waldman stated that turnout in the 2020 presidential election was the highest since 1900, with two-thirds of voting-eligible Americans casting a ballot.

Mr. Steil argued that recent high turnouts undermine persistent progressive allegations that Republicans have engaged in systematic voter suppression for decades. He asserted that improved election security measures implemented in recent years by many states are not suppressing turnout.

Noncitizen voting a ‘scare story’

According to Mr. Waldman, accounts of widespread noncitizen voting are based on “unfounded rumors” and “scare stories” fanned by “partisans and conspiracy theorists” who are seeking to “preemptively sow distrust in the next election. “The Big Lie is being pre-deployed,” he said.

The U.S. Capitol building in Washington on May 16, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

“In 2023 alone,” said Mr. Waldman, “14 states enacted 17 restrictive laws, each of which will be in effect for the 2024 general elections.” He said that in the past decade, “at least 29 states have passed nearly 100 restrictive laws making it harder to vote.”

“The turnout gap between white voters and nonwhite voters is growing across the country,” said Mr. Waldman, referring to a Brennan Center study as evidence.

Witness J. Christian Adams of the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), a nonprofit law firm dedicated to ensuring free and fair elections, also testified.

“In this polarized atmosphere, it would be wonderful if we could agree on a few basic facts. Noncitizens are, in fact, getting onto American voter rolls, and some of them are voting,” he said.

Mr. Adams said that most often, noncitizens are getting registered to vote through motor voter registration at their states’ Department of Motor Vehicles as permitted by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, or by third-party registration drives.

He said noncitizen voting is “a consequence of state bureaucrats reflexively offering registration applications to all customers. … Today, voter registration is so easy that foreign nationals get signed up very often without trying,” he said.

PILF researchers found instances in Pennsylvania, California, Florida, Texas, Virginia, and New Jersey in which some applicants admitted they were not U.S. citizens but were still registered to vote, he said.

According to the research, for about 20 years Pennsylvania offered voting prompts to every DMV customer, relying on the honor system to determine citizenship status.

Mr. Adams testified that America’s broken voter registration system is abusing many otherwise law-abiding prospective citizens and setting them up to fail by aggressively presenting them with voter registration forms written in a language they cannot read. A wrong answer can derail their naturalization and lead to deportation.

“They don’t have to vote to get in trouble,” he said.

‘Aliens are registering and actually voting’

Witness Hans von Spakovsky, a former member of the Federal Election Commission and current senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, cited a 2005 report from the U.S Government Accountability Office. The report found that in a single U.S. district court over two years, 3 percent of the 30,000 individuals called for jury duty from voter registration rolls were not U.S. citizens.

“We know that aliens are registering and actually voting, although we don’t know the extent of the problem since the vast majority of states are not verifying citizenship,” said Mr. Spakovsky. He cited one study that estimated 27 percent of all noncitizens currently in the United States are registered to vote and that about 3 percent of them will vote illegally this November.

Mr. Spakovsky said that both federal and state laws almost entirely leave voter roll maintenance to the states.

According to Mr. Spakovsky, the Department of Homeland Security has databases such as the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlement program and the E-Verify employment system that ought to be shared with state election officials. He also said that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and even the Social Security Administration, have valuable citizenship data that should be made available to the states.

Federal government ‘an impediment’

Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd, a Republican, testified that the Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification from Entitlements program is used by his state to verify a person’s citizenship status for purposes of voter registration.

“But, to be frank, the SAVE database is woefully inadequate,” Mr. Byrd said.

Mr. Byrd complained that, even when Florida identifies a noncitizen on the voter rolls, it is next to impossible to remove them.

“The only impediment for states from doing more is the federal government,” he said.

Mr. Byrd stated that federal courts have interpreted the National Voter Registration Act to prohibit states from requiring proof of citizenship at the time a person registers to vote.

“In effect, federal law forces the states to use the honor system. This is unacceptable,” he said.

According to Mr. Byrd, the challenge states face is that “there is not a federal legal status database that is current and reliable. … Florida cannot verify the citizenship status of persons in the United States without the assistance and cooperation of the federal government.”

In 2020, Floridians amended their state constitution to make clear that only a citizen of the United States shall be eligible to vote.

It is a third-degree felony to falsely claim U.S. citizenship when registering to vote in Florida.

Mr. Byrd spoke of the importance of a single vote, recalling that in the 2000 presidential election, the winner of Florida was determined by 537 votes out of millions cast.

“Every illegitimate vote of a noncitizen negates the legitimate vote of a citizen,” he said. “That’s why states need action from congressional leaders so we can fulfill our constitutional duties under the law.”

Foreign nationals contribute millions

Witness Caitlin Sutherland, representing the group Americans for Public Trust, testified that, through a labyrinth of “opaque nonprofit organizations” and political action committees, a significant number of foreign nationals are illegally contributing millions of dollars to state ballot initiative campaigns and voter registration drives.

Mr. Steil said this loophole “must be closed.”

Rep. Mike Carey, an Ohio Republican and member of the committee, stated that an organization known for working foreign money into the campaign finance system contributed $16 million in his state to a ballot initiative campaign.

Ms. Sutherland said American elections “should be for American citizens.”

During the nearly two-hour hearing, in which committee members listened to partisan barbs and witnesses arguing about politics and disputing the facts, Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) reminded participants that election integrity is supposed to be nonpolitical, nonpartisan, and is a top concern of the American people.

This article was originally published at The Epoch Times


Steven Kovac | The Epoch Times