A conservative legal group is suing Pennsylvania for records that could show thousands of noncitizen residents registered to vote over the last two decades.
Filed Monday in federal court in Harrisburg, Penn., the suit by the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) seeks to pry information pertaining to the maintenance of voter rolls from state election officials. The suit stems from a Pennsylvania study of noncitizen driver’s license holders that found names matching roughly 100,000 voters in the statewide registration database.
PILF had previously sought further information about the problem under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which allows private citizens to inspect “records concerning the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voters.”
But state officials have on several occasions refused to turn over the requested information, according to PILF’s lawsuit, which seeks a court order compelling the release of the records.
“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 Monday. “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 was referring to testimony given by Philadelphia Commissioner Al Schmidt to state lawmakers in 2017, detailing a longstanding problem with the state’s ‘motor voter’ system. Schmidt said the glitch enabled legal permanent residents to register to vote at kiosks when they applied for or renewed their driver’s licenses or vehicle registrations.
PILF has obtained records from at least four Pennsylvania counties that “plainly demonstrate” that noncitizens have been improperly registering to vote in through the Department of Transportation-administered program, according to the lawsuit. The group says the records it seeks will shine a light on the defective process for removing ineligible noncitizens from the state voter rolls.
PILF’s lawsuit builds on research it has conducted into improper voter registration by legal and illegal immigrants in Pennsylvania and other states. In 2016, the group found more than 80 noncitizens registered to vote in Philadelphia from 2013 to 2015, nearly half of whom had voted in at least one election.
The group has also used public records searches to uncover improper voter registration in Virginia, where it found more than 5,000 noncitizens had been removed from voter rolls between 2011 and 2017.
About one-third of those registrants had voted in at least one election.
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