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OPINION

For Two Decades PennDot Let Foreigners Register to Vote

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AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File

Sometimes the good guys win, even when it involves election shenanigans. For two decades, a glitch at PennDot was allowing foreigners to register to vote, by the thousands. For over two year, we have been trying to get the records showing how bad the problem was, and why it happened in the first place.

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Finally, a federal court ruled the public has a right to see how badly Pennsylvania election officials blew it.

And make no mistake, foreigners were voting in Pennsylvania elections because of state government snafus.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation, of which I am the president, submitted a public records request to inspect records showing the scope of how many foreign citizens had been registered and the actions taken by the Commonwealth to remove them from the voter rolls.

State officials, not keen on releasing documents cataloging their mistakes, denied our request. So, we sued them. And we won.

A federal court in Harrisburg ruled that the public has the right to check the work of election officials and to see election records related to list maintenance.

Free and fair elections are the vital bedrock of our democratic republic. Instead of standing in the way of transparency, the Commonwealth should have made these documents public and allowed us to assess how the disaster at PennDot occurred.

The mistake at the local DMV, resulted in at least 11,000 citizens of a foreign country getting on Pennsylvania voter rolls. Nothing stopped them from voting, because election officials didn’t even know there was a problem for decades.

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It’s even worse. In our litigation, we discovered that election officials did not have one single communication with law enforcement about foreigners voting. Granted the state should have never let aliens on the rolls in the first place, but in many case, the aliens know it was illegal for them to vote.

For example, documents show that more than 1,100 foreigners self-reported their ineligibility to election officials and requested cancellation of their voter registrations.

The Court ordered that Commonwealth is required to disclose to us the list maintenance documents related to all these foreign citizens and their voting history.

The problem of foreign citizens registering and voting is not just happening in Pennsylvania. We have uncovered foreigners on the voter rolls in Texas, Michigan, New Jersey, California, and North Carolina.

We recently won a similar lawsuit in North Carolina seeking records relating to foreigners registering and voting there. Again, we were met from resistance by election officials who fought disclosing these documents.

States need to stop fighting transparency of records relating to foreign citizens registering and voting and start examining why it is happening.

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At the root of the problem of foreigners registering to vote is the federal Motor Voter law passed in 1993.In Pennsylvania, all the firewalls failed, and foreigners got on the rolls and voted. Fixing the problem should be a transparent process so we can all see how it happened, and what is being done to prevent it from happening again. We shouldn’t have to fight state election officials and go to court to get them to follow the law.

J. Christian Adams is the President of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a former Justice Department attorney, and current commissioner on the United States Commission for Civil Rights.

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