More than 100,000 noncitizens are registered to vote in Pennsylvania alone, according to testimony submitted Monday in a lawsuit demanding the state come clean about the extent of its problems.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation, which has identified similar noncitizen voting problems in studies of Virginia and New Jersey, said Pennsylvania officials have admitted noncitizens have been registering and voting in the state “for decades.”
But state officials have stonewalled PILF requests for access to the data that could expose the problem, the group says in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Harrisburg.
“For months, Pennsylvania bureaucrats have concealed facts about noncitizens registering and voting — that ends today,” PILF President and General Counsel J. Christian Adams said.
He said Pennsylvania had already admitted to a “glitch” dating back to the 1990s that had allowed noncitizens applying to renew driver’s licenses to be offered the chance to register to vote. Mr. Adams said he now wants to find out how bad the problem is overall.
Pennsylvania officials wouldn’t respond to the lawsuit, nor to the 100,000 noncitizen number.
“We’re not going to comment on anything related to litigation,” said Wanda Murren, director of communications and press at the Pennsylvania Department of State.
The 100,000 number cited in the lawsuit comes from testimony given by Philadelphia Commissioner Al Schmidt, who revealed the glitch in the state motor vehicle bureau’s systems that prompted noncitizens to register to vote.
Mr. Schmidt didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.
While Pennsylvania refused PILF record requests, the group did manage to obtain data from some counties, and found several curious cases.
One man, Felipe Rojas-Orta, canceled his registration last year, filing a handwritten note saying he was not a citizen. He had, however, registered as a Democrat and voted in three separate elections, including most recently 2016, the year of the presidential race.
A woman had her registration canceled in 2006 as a noncitizen, yet re-registered to vote twice — and cast ballots in some elections. That woman, a registered Democrat, is still active in the system, the lawsuit says.
Yet another woman voted in 2008 and 2012, had her registration canceled in 2014 because she wasn’t a citizen, then reregistered and voted in 2016, according to documents filed in court. She was registered as a Democrat.
The federal “motor-voter” law requires states to make voter registration available at motor vehicle bureaus, but also pushes states to try to keep their voter rolls clean. Under the law, private parties can sue to press states to perform the cleansing.
Pennsylvania officials repeatedly refused requests under the law, according to the lawsuit. The state would only let the PILF look at records related to voters stripped from the rolls because of death or change of residence.
The PILF says that’s a misreading of the law.
The group has released reports in the past detailing more than 1,000 noncitizens registered to vote in New Jersey and more than 5,500 registered in Virginia. Roughly a third of those from Virginia actually cast ballots.
The numbers only include people whose registration was canceled because they later said they weren’t citizens, and thus ineligible to vote. Analysts say it’s difficult to figure out how many others are registered but never discovered because they don’t self-report.
President Trump’s voter integrity commission was supposed to try to get a broader handle on that question by checking voter rolls against government databases. But Mr. Trump disbanded the commission amid a series of lawsuits and questions over the panel’s activities.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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