DMV search of records turns up ineligible NC voters

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(WGHP file photo)

The Winston-Salem Journal reports that the voter rolls kept by the State Board of Elections contain 145 names that belong to a certain category of ineligible voter – immigrants in the U.S. under a federal program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, according to elections officials.

Josh Lawson, an SBOE spokesman, said that election officials found out about the number Tuesday night, after the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles ran a specific search for drivers with DACA licenses.

Letters from the SBOE will be sent to the 145 people asking for documentation that they are U.S. citizens, Lawson said.

More people who are ineligible because they are not U.S. citizens may be on the voter rolls.

Nearly 10,000 names on the rolls are tagged by the DMV as “legally present,” according to elections and transportation officials. But that doesn’t mean that all 10,000 are ineligible to vote at this time. These are license holders who were not U.S. citizens when they got a license. They may have been green-card holders, foreign workers or foreign students, for example.

Most have become U.S. citizens since getting a license, according to an estimate by elections officials based on a sample of the overall list.

Earlier this month, State Board of Elections officials sampled about 1,600 of the 10,000 names, Lawson said. They cross-checked the names against a U.S. Department of Homeland Security database, known as SAVE, and found that 94 percent of those 1,600 are in fact U.S. citizens, Lawson said.

They are eligible to vote.

Some may still show up on the DMV database as legally present – not a U.S. citizen – because there is no requirement for a person with a driver’s license to get a new license – which would update the DMV database – when he or she becomes a U.S. citizen, according to Mike Charbonneau, a DMV spokesman.

Still, if 94 percent are U.S. citizens, then 6 percent are ineligible. If that percentage holds against the whole list of nearly 10,000 names, then about 600 people on the voter rolls would be ineligible to vote.

DMV is working to cross-check all the names, Charbonneau said.

15,000 have DACA licenses in NC

Nobody should be on the voter rolls if they are not eligible, said James Johnson, president of NC FIRE, an advocacy group based in Cumberland County that supports the enforcement of immigration laws at the state level.

“One shouldn’t be there,” Johnson said. “That’s what we were afraid of when they started issuing DACA licenses.”

The work by the SBOE and DMV to verify the 10,000 names was in the works already, according to Lawson, but it also dug deeper after NC FIRE and the Voter Integrity Project separately asked about the possibility that DACA immigrants may be on the voter rolls.

In the U.S., more than 550,000 younger immigrants, raised mostly in the U.S. but who did not have authorization to be in the country, have qualified for DACA, according to August statistics from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

They paid a $465 fee to USCIS plus about $500 to $1,000 in attorney fees to apply for the program, which was implemented by President Barack Obama’s administration two years ago on Aug. 15, 2012.

In North Carolina, the DACA program allows recipients to get a Social Security card, work permit and driver’s license. In the state, with a total population of about 9.5 million people, nearly 20,000 have received approval for DACA, according to the latest USCIS statistics, through March 31.

About 15,000 DACA licenses have been issued, according to the latest statistics provided by DMV officials.

They have lawful presence in the U.S. but have no pathway to citizenship.

As such, it would make sense for the SBOE to cross-check its voter rolls for people with DACA licenses, said Jay DeLancy, director of the Voter Integrity Project, based in Raleigh.

“We would like the DMV to work with the State Board of Elections on LP (legally present) and DACA. They should cross check immediately. We want that cross-agency accountability on a regular basis,” DeLancy said.