Report: Noncitizens Discovered in New Jersey Voter Registration System

Published On: September 11th, 2017

76 Percent Admitted Alien Status Up Front

(ALEXANDRIA, VA.) – September 11, 2017: The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) today released Garden State Gotcha: How Opponents of Citizenship Verification for Voting Are Putting New Jersey’s Noncitizens at Risk of Deportation.

After a six-month review of New Jersey county voter registration files, the Public Interest Legal Foundation found numerous enforcement flaws for the National Voter Registration Act (Motor Voter) that unnecessarily expose noncitizens to future naturalization challenges and even deportation without clearly-justified reforms.

  • 616 admitted and officially recorded noncitizens in 11 counties engaged on some level with the NJ voter registration system;
  • Nine percent of aliens self-reporting their status also cast ballots prior;
  • 76 percent of noncitizens found in the system admitted their immigration status at the outset;
  • 75 percent of noncitizens were invited to register while receiving driver’s licenses or in other government transactions like community college admissions or public schools; and
  • Six counties, including one “sanctuary county”, claimed to have never seen noncitizens registered or applying to vote.

“New Jersey offers eye-opening lessons,” PILF President and General Counsel J. Christian Adams said. “A limited inquiry found that hundreds of noncitizens are documented throughout voter records, typically because a bureaucrat offered them an application. Some were even asked after presenting a Green Card. That broken system is propped up by an honor code proven repeatedly to fail. Many illegally voted. Some claimed they didn’t know they were registered until an immigration agent called. All will likely face an inquiry if they decide to become Americans.” 

“It’s time to have a serious discussion about modernizing our Motor Voter law and determine how we can verify citizenship in the process,” Adams added. “Anyone who disagrees exposes Americans to vote dilution and helps write one-way tickets for deportees.”

In the absence of regular data-sharing arrangements between federal officials and the State, the ability of election officials to identify aliens on the voter rolls in real time is almost nonexistent. Voter registrars are stuck waiting for noncitizens to contact them, usually in a panic, admitting to registering despite their ineligibility. Such reactionary maintenance was typically due to pending naturalization applications.

“New Jersey’s only defense to alien registration is the hope that aliens who get on the voters rolls will self-report,” the new PILF study notes. “Without proactive verification mechanisms built into the voter registration application process, cascading negative consequences are sure to follow for eligible and ineligible voters alike.”

After reviewing thousands of pages of voter records, Motor Voter arises as a contributing factor for why so many alien residents are getting trapped in the voter registration system.

  • Years of official and third party pressure on state agencies to register more voters has apparently driven some offices to become overly aggressive in offering applications to those that do not qualify.
  • No uniform protections were apparent for noncitizens to be shielded from voter registration after they presented identification clearly documenting their ineligibility.
  • The current, two-year voter record retention cap can create difficulties for naturalization applicants required to show proof of previous activity.

Garden State Gotcha follows PILF’s previous work to quantify the number of voters cancelled for citizenship defects in Virginia. The Public Interest Legal Foundation found more than 5,500 cases.

Both New Jersey and Virginia are slated to perform statewide elections in November 2017.

Access to Garden State Gotcha: How Opponents of Citizenship Verification for Voting Are Putting New Jersey’s Noncitizens at Risk of Deportation has been made available, here.

Access to evidentiary exhibits referenced throughout can be found, here.

Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) is a 501(c)(3) public interest law firm dedicated to election integrity. The Foundation exists to assist states and others to aid the cause of election integrity and fight against lawlessness in American elections. Drawing on numerous experts in the field, PILF seeks to protect the right to vote and preserve the Constitutional framework of American elections.


Public Interest Legal Foundation