Report: Some Non-Citizens Voting in U.S.

November 26, 2007

CBS 11 News

Chris Salcedo

Every American’s vote counts. It’s a basic pillar of our electoral system.

But a CBS 11 investigation discovered that election officials can’t guarantee that only American citizens vote in elections.

After the review of data from Tarrant and Dallas Counties, it appeared, at least on the surface, that some non-citizens were participating in U.S. elections.

Since 1976, 1,900 people have been removed from the voter rolls because of their citizenship status in Dallas County. Of those, 221 had voter histories.

Tarrant County election data from 2004 and 2005 shows 43 people have been removed from the voter rolls, but none had voter histories.

It appeared there was a problem. Officials admit some illegal immigrants could be seeking to participate in U.S. elections.

But, they explained, there are other explanations.

Tarrant County elections official Steve Rayborn said some legal citizens claim they are not citizens to get out of jury duty.

There are other scenarios that explain the data. Non-citizens on student or work visas might fill out registration forms by mistake.

Rayburn said that if there are non-citizens voting, he feels there are very few.

Dallas County elections official Bruce Sherbet said his elections are as clean as they can be. They follow the law when checking voter’s qualifications.

He said he has tools at his disposal to check for felony convictions and someone’s age. He even has tools to determine if a voter has been deemed mentally incompetent by a court of law.

However, there is no way to know if everyone who casts a ballot is a legal citizen. Under the law, there is no government check for citizenship eligibility.

The only way to determine someone’s citizenship is to see which box they checked on their voter registration card.

In the last legislative session, Texas lawmakers tackled the issue.

Representative Phil King of Weatherford authored a bill that would have allowed the Secretary of State to verify citizenship using information in a data base like birth records and social security numbers.

Representative Lon Burnam of Fort Worth helped fight that bill, saying it was a tool for the “radical right” to suppress the votes of minorities and the elderly.

Representative Burnam said he believes any gains achieved by citizen verification would be outweighed by the thousands of U.S. voters who would be disenfranchised. To him, the integrity of new electronic voting machines is a bigger issue.

It is almost certain the issue will be back next session.

You can weigh in on this issue. Click here to find out how you can get in touch with your representative and let them know where you stand.