SEPTEMBER 18, 2012
Comparison of files suggests some non-U.S. citizens may
have voting records
LANSING, Mich. – Michigan's voter rolls may contain as many as 4,000
registered voters who are not U.S. citizens according to new data, Michigan
Secretary of State Ruth Johnson announced today.
"Elections have been won or lost on far less than 4,000 votes," said Johnson.
"Five state house seats in Michigan's primary last month were decided by fewer
than 100 votes each. Don't tell me that every vote isn't critical. We have to
face this issue, not ignore it, or we are doing a disservice to every legitimate
voter in Michigan."
Johnson has repeatedly asked federal officials – the only ones who have complete
citizenship data – for help in identifying thousands of non-U.S. citizens on the
state's voter rolls but to date they have refused.
"The whole reason we have non-U.S. citizens on our rolls in the first place is
because for more than 30 years the feds required us to ask every customer if
they wanted to register to vote, regardless of citizenship," Johnson said. "So
today, we could have 4,000 people on our voter rolls who don't belong there –
that's the population of cities like Bloomfield Hills or Durand."
Michigan Department of State staff verified that almost 1,000 people who are
noncitizens are registered to vote, despite only having access to about 19
percent of complete citizenship data. Staff compared about 58,000 driver's
license and personal identification card records where citizenship status could
be verified back to 2010 with voter registration records. Of those, 54 appear to
have a voting history in the state's qualified voter files for a total of 95
With the most-recent U.S. Census' five-year American Community Survey showing
that Michigan has a noncitizen population of more than 304,000 people, it is
estimated that as many as 4,000 noncitizens in Michigan could be registered
Noncitizens who inadvertently registered to vote because a government form was
put in front of them who vote can face felony criminal charges or even
deportation, no matter how long they have worked toward becoming U.S. citizens.
Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, said of today's announcement: "Elections in
Michigan are often won and lost by incredibly close margins. We must make every
effort to have the cleanest voter rolls we can. The fact that we have
noncitizens on our voter rolls and casting ballots should concern all eligible
voters whose voices are being diluted by those who shouldn't be voting."
State Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township, agreed, saying: "We know that
noncitizens have been invited to register to vote for decades with many doing
so, whether they've done it intentionally or not. Putting noncitizens on notice
that casting a ballot is a serious crime is a simple, common-sense solution to
Oakland County Clerk Bill Bullard Jr. said he believes noncitizens are
registered to vote in his county and supports the use of the U.S. citizenship
question on the ballot applications. "While our numbers were small, and most
probably registered by accident, it is my constitutional responsibility to
protect the security of the voting process," he added. "Citizens do not want
their vote diluted by those who should not vote, and noncitizens do not want the
severe consequences that can result from voting illegally. The citizenship
question is already on the voter registration form, and no one finds that
controversial. Taking another two seconds to reaffirm citizenship should not be
a major controversy, either."
Because there has been no official mechanism in place to help MDOS staff verify
citizenship information for about another 80 percent of non-U.S. citizens in its
records and the federal government has refused to assist Michigan, election
officials haven't been able to remove noncitizens from the rolls – one reason
Johnson believes that a citizenship question belongs on ballot applications in
the polls on Election Day.
"This is a reminder, until we can ensure our voter rolls are as accurate as
possible, that voting is the right of U.S. citizens only," Johnson said, adding
the citizenship question already appeared on Michigan ballot applications as far
back as 2002 as part of voter-education efforts.
"We have clear examples this is a problem and now have the numbers themselves,"
she said, pointing to recent incidents and even a federal report that identifies
non-U.S. citizens are on voter rolls nationwide, including:
- A Canadian citizen who voted in multiple elections in Livingston County in the
November 2000, November 2004, August 2006, November 2006, November 2008, August
2010 and November 2012 elections. The voter, who lives in Genoa Township, said
he was unaware he couldn't vote legally in the United States until he checked
"no" on the citizenship question on the ballot application.
- An Indonesian citizen nearly had his efforts at citizenship derailed after it
became clear that he voted in the 2008 presidential election. The Kalamazoo
resident told a reporter he signed his name on the voter application but he
could not speak or read English. He also said he thought he was doing the right
thing because voting is mandatory in Indonesia.
- The federal government has already publicly acknowledged the problem of
noncitizens on voter rolls. A 2005 U.S. Government Accountability Office report
found that federal data sources "have the potential to help state election
officials ensure that voter lists are accurate by identifying registrants who
may be noncitizens."
For more information about Johnson's efforts to remove those who have died,
moved or who are not U.S. citizens from the voter rolls, visit
Residents are also encouraged to visit
www.ExpressSOS.com to conduct business
online. For more information about Secretary of State office locations and
services, visit www.michigan.gov/sos. Sign up for the official Secretary of
State Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/michsos and Facebook updates at
Customers also may call the Department of State Information Center to speak to a
customer-service representative at 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424).
For media questions, please call Gisgie Dávila Gendreau at 517-373-2520.
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