Has Washington State Registered Foreign Nationals To Vote?
A series of emails from concerned election officials and an immigration attorney have surfaced that reveal an unknown number of foreign nationals have been registered to vote in Washington State, in some cases, non-citizens have tried to refuse registration and alerted officials they are not eligible to vote. They still received ballots and may be subject to fines or jail time through no fault of their own. And of course, some may have voted.
The Center Square is reporting the problem began as early as 2018 when a law was passed automatically registering a person to vote along with the issuance or renewal of a driver's license.
The problem is described as rare but the extent of the problem is unknown according to Center Square's reporting. The Washington Secretary of State’s Office claims state law does not allow citizenship verifications on a voter’s registration.
An Immigration attorney told The Center Square “many of our clients are unwittingly getting registered to vote when they get their IDs, apply or receive any state benefits. Sometimes we find out because they get a summons for jury duty. Others do not discover have been registered until they decide to apply for citizenship.”
Attorney Vanessa Mathisen with World Relief Spokane says Spokane election officials told her "it’s not a problem if a non-citizen registers to vote".Mathisen disagrees and says making false claims regarding eligibility to vote is a Class C felony and includes a fine of up to $10,000 and up to five years in prison. She points out many of these individuals don't speak or understand english and find themselves in the position of having to argue they did not make a claim of being a citizen that they potentially cannot prove because they never claimed to be citizens in the first place. This could threaten their immigration status.