Non-citizens have been registering to vote in PA for years

Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt said on CNN that he has seen no evidence of voter fraud in Philadelphia.
PHOTO: Charles Mostoller

City Commissioner Al Schmidt, one of three commissioners who oversees city elections, announced Wednesday that his office has discovered that hundreds of non-citizens have been able to register to vote in Philly and likely statewide in the last decade. 

“When you’re a non-citizen and you’re eligible for a driver’s license, you go to PennDOT,” explained Schmidt, a Republican. “You’re presented with a touch screen that asks you if you’d like to register to vote … So you have PennDOT asking non-citizens to register to vote.” 

Schmidt stressed that these individuals are not believed to have had any fraudulent intent.

“It is plausible they’d think they’re allowed to vote,” he said. “Why would a government agency they’ve just told they’re not a citizen ask them to register to vote?”

But he said the loophole is “both harmful to election integrity and to members of the immigrant community seeking citizenship.”

So far, at least 220 non-U.S. citizens have been identified who were registered to vote in Philadelphia between 2006 and 2017. Half of those voted, and 76 percent had registered to vote through PennDOT, the rest through other means. 

“The total number of votes cast by non-U.S. citizens we identified is 227, with the largest number of votes (47) cast in the 2008 General Election,” his office said in a statement.

The individuals identified so far actually contacted the government to cancel their registrations after determining they should never have been registered, Schmidt said. And the same PennDOT system was in use statewide. So the total number of improperly registered voters could be far higher.

“We are talking about so far hundreds of people and that number is sure to increase in the days ahead,” he said. “The known unknown is how many people are currently registered who are non-citizens?”

Schmidt has informed the PA Department of State of these irregularities. (The department told media the matter is under review). He is asking PennDOT to fix the glitch, for the state to review voter records in the state’s other 66 counties, and for the state and PennDOT to cross-reference its databases to find all the non-citizens who are registered to vote. 

He said he hopes that adopting a policy of transparency in addressing this issue will prove to voters’ fears that the system is not “crooked.” 

“It should give people faith in the system that problems are being uncovered and solved,” he said.

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