One of the controversies that has been raging in this election is the allegation of Republicans, including Donald Trump, that illegal immigrants have been voting around the country. An interview with Hispanic activist group “Mitú” has now magnified this controversy after President Barack Obama appeared to say that non-citizens could vote and that there is no way that they would be investigated. Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and dozens of sites cried foul at what they saw as an explicit encouragement of such voting. The statement came in an interview with Mitú’s Gina Rodriguez who asked the President is “undocumented citizens” are at risk if they vote. The President assured them that they have nothing to fear. It is a extremely poorly crafted question from what appears an amateur interviewer. I do not believe that President Obama was trying to encourage illegal voting but both the question and answer left many incensed.
Here is the exchange (the video is below):
Rodriguez: “Many of the millennials, DREAMers, undocumented citizens — and I call them citizens because they contribute to this country — are fearful of voting. So, if I vote, will immigration [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] know where I live? Will they come for my family and deport us?”
Obama: “Not true. First of all, when you vote, you are a citizen yourself, and there is not a situation where the voting rolls are transferred over and people start investigating, et cetera. The sanctity of the vote is strictly confidential in terms of who you voted for.”
Putting aside the contraction of an “undocumented citizen,” the answer to the question is clear: undocumented person cannot vote in this country.
I am certainly willing to give the President the benefit of the doubt that he heard “millennials” and might have thought that the question was whether their families (which might include illegal immigrants) would be at risk. Nevertheless, the President could have missed the reference. I am not entirely sure what Rodriquez meant by the question. However, the President clearly states that “when you vote, you are a citizen yourself.” The confusion is over the use of “undocumented citizen” to refer to illegal immigrants.
The Washington Post published a study on the question of the impact of voting by undocumented persons back in 2014. Given the controversy over this very issue, it should have been a misstatement that the White House corrected immediately. Conversely, if this tape is doctored, they should make such a statement on the inaccurate or false editing. I have found no statement from the White House even though I cannot understand how the answer to that question could be construed as true — unless you cut cut everything after the word “millennial,” which makes the question nonsensical since there is no reason why an actual citizen — millennial or non-millennial — would be investigated after voting for possible illegal immigrants in a household. However, it is certainly possible that the President thought that some hispanic voters might worry that giving their address during voting might lead to authorities including the address in later searches or investigations into undocumented relatives.
Who Can Vote?
You can vote in U.S. elections if you:
Are a U.S. citizen
Meet your state’s residency requirements
You can be homeless and still meet these requirements.
Are 18 years old on or before Election Day
You can register to vote before you turn 18 if you will be 18 by Election Day. Check your state’s registration age requirements.
Register to vote by your state’s voter registration deadline
The one exception is for residents of North Dakota, which doesn’t have voter registration.
Who CAN’T Vote?
Non-citizens, including permanent legal residents
For President in the general election: U.S. citizens residing in U.S. territories
Some people with felony convictions. Rules vary by state. Check with your state elections office about the laws in your state.
Some people who are mentally incapacitated. Rules vary by state.
President Obama’s comments has predictably exploded on the Internet at a time when the Democrats are also opposing voter identification laws used to confirm voter status. I am baffled why there has been no immediate correction by the White House.
States like Virginia make such acts a misdemeanor (or felony for procuring or assisting illegal voting):
§ 24.2-1004. Illegal voting and registrations.
A. Any person who wrongfully deposits a ballot in the ballot container or casts a vote on any voting equipment, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
B. Any person who intentionally (i) votes more than once in the same election, whether those votes are cast in Virginia or in Virginia and any other state or territory of the United States, (ii) procures, assists, or induces another to vote more than once in the same election, whether those votes are cast in Virginia or in Virginia and any other state or territory of the United States, (iii) votes knowing that he is not qualified to vote where and when the vote is to be given, or (iv) procures, assists, or induces another to vote knowing that such person is not qualified to vote where and when the vote is to be given is guilty of a Class 6 felony.
Here is the interview: