Hundreds of noncitizens ended up on voting rolls in Maricopa County

A report that questions federal law forcing states to increase voter registration claims that more than 200 noncitizens, who self-report their status as such, have registered to vote in Arizona’s Maricopa County. At least nine have cast votes in federal elections.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation has released the first of a series reports to coincide with 30 years of the Motor Voter law. This law requires that states allow voters to register at local motor vehicle bureaus.

The law increased voter registration, but it also led to a messy voter list. Public Interest Legal Foundation reports that a large number of noncitizens illegally gain access to the voting booth.

Since 2015, 222 people in Maricopa County – the county that is home to Phoenix and the fourth most populous county in America – have informed officials they are on the list but do not possess citizenship. Nine of those people voted in federal elections without realizing that they were wrong, according to the foundation.


J. Christian Adams is the president of Public Interest Legal Foundation, and a former attorney in the Justice Department’s voting rights section.

Motor Voter (officially the National Voter Registration Act) enlisted local officials in order to encourage more people to register and vote. State motor vehicle bureaus were required to ask their customers if they wanted to register. Other state agencies were also required to provide registration forms, but the motor vehicle bureaus are now the main actors in registrations.

Some states offer registration to all citizens, including noncitizens, who are not allowed to vote at national elections under federal law.

Pennsylvania was the state where the biggest hiccup occurred. Officials discovered that the motor system allowed non-citizens vote.

In 2019, the state reported that more than 11,00 non-citizens had been found on voter lists.

North Carolina voter registration forms are sent to motor vehicles bureaus already marked “citizen”. In 2016, 41 noncitizens voted, according to a 2017 audit. They were all legal immigrants.

The federal prosecutors charged several dozen non-citizens for the North Carolina voting irregularities.

The 222 names on the Maricopa County rolls are people who have self-reported that they are not citizens. Mr. Adams says that immigrants who are seeking citizenship will often admit to being on the rolls, because a question on the form asks if they have ever been illegally registered. Lie on the form and you could be deported.

He said that the naturalization process has an incentive to be truthful about the registration to vote.

Mr. Adams says that it is impossible to guess how many other people have not come forward.

His report was released a few weeks before Bill Gates, Maricopa County Supervisor, is scheduled to speak at The Summit on American Democracy. This project is run by the Center for Election Innovation & Research.

The office of Mr. Gates did not respond to our request for comment. The elections office of Maricopa County did not respond either.

Noncitizen voters are not a large number in the country. This doesn’t support the claims made by some on the right that noncitizens vote and influence elections, but it’s still a number.

Mr. Adams stated that even low numbers should cause concern.

He said that it doesn’t really matter if the failure is widespread or not when foreigners vote in American elections.

Mr. Adams stated that part of the problem stems from the creation of the Motor Voter law when legislators debated how best to handle voter registration forms with the citizenship box left unchecked.

Democrats wanted to use a blank checkbox as an attestation. Republicans had a different view. Adams stated that the law was passed without a resolution to this issue. The blue-leaning state interprets it in the way Democrats want, while the red-leaning state sees it the other way around.

Mr. Adams suggested that Congress step in to provide clarity and authorize states to verify citizenship claims. The courts have generally rejected state attempts to verify citizenship beyond what is written on registration forms.

List maintenance, also known as the Motor Voter law, is required by all states.

This also applies to voters who have died or moved. Mr. Adams believes Congress should include citizenship verification in list maintenance duties. However, he does not have much hope.

He said, “If the problem had been discovered 10 or 15 years ago there would have been an immediate bipartisan solution in Congress.” “But now the Democrats are so radicalized about every issue that comes up in Congress.”

Motor Voter is a software that was designed to increase voter participation in what many considered to be a low-turnout democracy.

Some leftists also hoped that it would reduce the participation rate of White and more wealthy Americans.

The effects of the data were not large.

State Politics & Policy Quarterly published a study in 2009 that found the law increased registration, but did not change the demographics of the voters. Researchers said that it only had a marginal influence.

The Pew Charitable Trusts reviewed the state of motor vehicle laws in 2014 but the data was too inconsistent to make any conclusions.

Mr. Adams has said that his next report, marking the 30th Anniversary of the Law will be about Chicago.