June 15, 2024

Ensuring The Right To Vote Comes First

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As we approach the 2024 elections, we constantly hear fears of undocumented immigrants voting and rigged elections. We find candidates for office refusing to say they will accept the results of our elections if they don’t go their way.

Legislation has been passed in some states in recent years under the banner of protecting election sanctity and security.

Despite overwhelming evidence that our elections at the local, state, and federal levels are secure with fraud and people not eligible to vote casting ballots a tiny fraction of a fraction, these laws are pursued.

When considering the consequences for an undocumented immigrant voting you see why so few attempt to register to vote. If for some reason, they do become registered, they would have far too much to lose to cast a ballot.

“Imagine you’re an undocumented person living in the United States. You’ve come to this country seeking a better life for you and your family. Or maybe your parents brought you here seeking the same when you were a child,” Sean Morales-Doyle of the Brennan Center writes. “You spend your life living in very real fear that you might be noticed by the government and be deported — perhaps to a country you’ve never known.”

It’s a federal offense for non-citizens to register to vote and to cast a ballot. Doing so would also violate state laws. Registering puts your name on the federal government’s radar. State governments would register your name and address. “Are you a citizen of the United States of America?” It’s the first question asked when you register to vote. If you lie, you’ve committed a crime.

If you are caught, which is almost certain to happen, you face up to five years in prison. You also will likely face deportation. 

What issue on the ballot is so important to you that you would risk going to prison or being deported? That you would risk being pulled apart from family, friends, a job, and a home? Morales-Doyle asks.

Both the State of Minnesota and the federal government have multiple ways of ensuring election security and finding people who are not eligible to vote. Computer programs find problematic registrations and flag them ahead of elections.

Increasingly, our politics are being built on fear and anxiety to instill resentment. Too often, what is behind stoking resentment has been fabricated for the political reason of manipulating the public in order to maintain power.

It is used to propose laws to tighten voting laws to exclude people who do have the right to vote by making it increasingly difficult for them to get to the polls and cast ballots.

They argue that the sanctity of our elections must be protected against voting by undocumented immigrants, a falsehood, and repress the sanctity at the core of our representative democracy, the right to vote.

Introducing doubt and playing to people’s prejudices is an old formula for manipulation that works well today. Our internet makes it so much easier as it feeds people too easily and willingly open to false information.

“This is all politics. It’s all about stoking fears and angering the base,” Republican strategist and author Mike Madrid is quoted in an article by Stateline. He worries that his party’s current state on immigrants and voting will hurt its election chances in the long run by alienating immigrants who eventually become citizens.

When asked for proof of undocumented immigrants voting in America, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson dodged the question.

“The answer is that it’s unanswerable,” the Louisiana Republican said last month. “We all know, intuitively, that a lot of illegals are voting in federal elections, but it’s not been something that is easily provable.”

Intuition isn’t proof, and proving election fraud or documenting cases of illegal voting is relatively easy. Imagine a system of justice where conviction is based on the “intuition” of those in power and proof is dismissed because it’s not “easily provable.”

Consider these examples:

North Carolina audited its 2016 elections searching for illegal voters among its more than 4.8 million voters that year. It found only 41 immigrants who were legally here, but had not been sworn in as citizens yet who had voted.

Georgia did a 25-year study of its election rolls in 2022 and found that, on average, only 65 noncitizens entered the rolls each year. That doesn’t mean they voted. In 2020, 4.9 million Georgians voted.

In Ohio, nearly 8 million citizens are registered to vote. Out of that number, the state found 137 suspected non-citizens were listed. Those 137 were removed from the voting rolls ahead of the election.

A study by the Brennan Center investigated voting in three states with large immigrant populations – California, Texas, and Arizona in 2016. If found only 30 cases of possible noncitizens voting out of nearly 24 million votes cast. 

We’ve seen abuses in attempts to purge voter rolls. In Texas, nearly 100,000 people were marked for review as eligible voters with many removed wrongly in 2021 by a law passed by its legislature. Where is the justice in removing tens of thousands of legal voters from the voting rolls to prevent a handful of undocumented people from possibly voting? The attempt to remove the voters in Texas was overturned by a judge.

In protecting our elections, the primary goals should be doing our best to get citizens to vote and ensuring the process is easy. Nothing is more fundamental to a representative democracy than the right of citizens to vote. Our elections should also be secure, and we have seen hard evidence time and time again of just how well our local, state, and federal elections are monitored to ensure trusted outcomes.

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