California’s voter registration system is “highly susceptible to being compromised,” because of immigration policies protecting the Golden State’s 2.4 million illegal immigrants, authorities have told Fox News.
The integrity of elections may be compromised by a lack of oversight of non-citizens registering and voting, said Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative and senior legal fellow for the Institute for Constitutional Government at The Heritage Foundation.
“If you are talking about California, the state is apparently relying on the illegal alien to tell the state they shouldn’t be registered. There is still an honor system,” said von Spakovsky, co-author of the book “Who's Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk.”
The problem with California is there is no separate verification of citizenship on voter registration, said Charles Bell, Jr., a partner with California-based Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, LLP, a law firm that specializes in election law. Applicants can check a box affirming they are citizens, and this is not checked against any other government database such as federal immigration records.
“We have an honor system, which is effective for people who are honorable, but is also an opportunity for people who are not honorable,” Bell said. “There is a gap in the system, and we don’t have administrative folks who will be aggressive about looking into that.”
One concern, said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Washington D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies, is that California issues driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, allowing them to automatically be registered to vote under the federal “motor-voter” laws. Since the AB60 law went into effect in 2015, 806,000 illegal immigrants have received a license.
However, a spokesperson for the California Secretary of State countered that while state law prohibits the Department of Motor Vehicles from sharing AB 60 applicant information with the public and most state agencies, including the Secretary of State’s office, AB 60 license applicants are not afforded voter registration opportunities when visiting the DMV.
There is no driver’s license required to register to vote, and there are stiff penalties for illegally voting, the spokesman said.
Even John Podesta, former chairman of the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, acknowledged in a leaked email that driver’s licenses do provide a loophole.
“On the picture ID, the one thing I have thought of in that space is that if you show up on Election Day with a driver’s license with a picture, attest that you are a citizen, you have a right to vote in federal elections,” Podesta wrote in a February 2015 email leaked by Wikileaks.
President Donald Trump set off a firestorm when he wrote in a November 27 tweet that he would have won the country’s popular vote if the “millions of people who voted illegally” hadn’t voted. He alleged voter fraud in California, among other states. Trump won the Electoral College, but lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million, largely because of California voters.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla immediately called Trump’s allegations of voter fraud “false and unsubstantiated” and “corrosive lies without any evidence.”
While Trump said voter fraud won’t be tolerated under his administration, past presidents didn’t make election integrity a priority, said Vaughan. The federal government can help local or state government agencies verify citizenship of registered voters, but the Obama administration blocked state and local governments from using the federal verification system, Vaughan said.
Claude Arnold, who served as the former Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations in Southern California, Nevada, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, said he has witnessed voter fraud firsthand.
“Throughout my 27-year career with [Immigration and Naturalization Service] and ICE, I arrested hundreds of illegal criminal aliens who had voter registration cards,” Arnold said. “They would often admit they voted, but they were rarely prosecuted for illegally voting.”
He said most of the time, the alleged criminals were registered Democrats.
“Just one time,” he said, “the person was a registered Republican.”
There are many advocacy groups that want voter registration to be simpler.
The Brennan Center for Justice wants automatic voter registration laws to be expanded across the country.
The law, which was passed in California, Oregon, Vermont, West Virginia, Connecticut and Alaska, means eligible citizens who interact with government agencies are registered to vote unless they decline to do so. Government agencies must transfer voter-registration information to election officials.
In California alone, the automatic voter registration law could lead to an estimated 6.6 million eligible but unregistered voters being added to the rolls, the Brennan Center for Justice reported.
“[Automatic voter registration laws] create a seamless process that is more convenient and less error-prone for both voters and government officials,” the institute said in a statement. “This policy boosts registration rates, cleans up the rolls, makes voting more convenient, and reduces the potential for voter fraud – all while lowering costs.”
Malia Zimmerman is an award-winning investigative reporter focusing on crime, homeland security, illegal immigration crime, terrorism and political corruption. Follow her on twitter at @MaliaMZimmerman