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February 7, 2017

The Honorable Jill Holtzman Vogel


Chairwoman
Committee on Privileges and Elections
Virginia Senate
General Assembly Building, Room 309
Richmond, VA 23219

RE: Support for HB 1598

Dear Chairwoman Holtzman Vogel:

We write today offering several observations to the Committee in support of House Bill 1598,
which would require documentary proof of U.S. citizenship when registering to vote in the
Commonwealth of Virginia. The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) is a nonprofit law firm
dedicated to election integrity that also promotes common-sense reforms that preserve the
Constitutional framework of American elections.

This letter has been submitted to strongly suggest that HB 1598 be considered and advanced by
this Committee. Virginia voters deserve better than an honor system that trusts first and only
verifies after wrongdoing has apparently been committed all while obscuring the publics view
into the process.

PILF is aware that this Committee has received various notes of concern from parties such as the
Augusta County Board of Elections and others, claiming that there is no hard evidence that a
significant number of foreign nationals have participated in any manner within Virginias
election system. Proponents of this talking point are not only incorrect, but they are abetted by
jurisdictions and officials that have intentionally acted to limit the publics visibility on this
matter.

In October 2016, PILF released a report which compiled 1,046 instances of registrants who were
cancelled for citizenship reasons by election officials.1 After closer examination, roughly 200
ballots had been cast from this pool of voters before they were removed. None were referred to
appropriate law enforcement upon official discovery. The report further details the extent to
which the political leadership of the Virginia Department of Elections issued guidance on how
locales in receipt of PILFs requests for information were instructed to obscure such data.

PILFs research directly revealed flaws in existing procedures to identify, remove, and prosecute
non-citizens found in the voting system. Bedford County was officially alerted to 54 individuals

1
Report: Ineligible Aliens Registering to Vote and Casting Ballots (10/4/2016),
https://publicinterestlegal.org/election-law-live/report-ineligible-aliens-registering-vote-casting-ballots/

32 E. Washington Street, Suite 1675, Indianapolis, Indiana 46204


Telephone: 317.203.5599 Fax: 888.815.5641 PublicInterestLegal.org
that claimed non-U.S. citizen status when seeking drivers licenses, prompting election
administrators to send letters asking that they either again attest to their eligibilityor risk being
removed from the roll. Thirty-five would later be scrubbed, yet did not face appropriate
prosecution. It remains a mystery as to which state agency the remaining 19 individuals
misrepresented their citizenship status to.

Virginias weak record in ensuring that ineligible persons do not register to vote extends beyond
our own research. PILFs reporting notes that Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed legislation in
April 2015 that would have required jury commissioners to preserve documents detailing where
individuals claimed an inability to serve based on non-citizenship or other reasons for the
purpose of sharing such information with election administrators. No detailed justification for the
veto was given at the time. The Commonwealth also previously considered making sections of
the voter registration form optional, including the checkbox portion indicating eligibility to vote
based on citizenship status.2

The central concern lodged against HB 1598 whether requiring documentary proof of
citizenship is too much of a burden on prospective voters is easily ameliorated with procedural
reforms that would waive document reproduction fees for those in need. We advise that the
Committee review similar measures taken in Kansas3 and Texas4 with respect to this matter.

Thank you for the attention given to these observations. Should there be any need for additional
insight; the Public Interest Legal Foundation is at the Committees service.

Respectfully,

Logan C. Churchwell, Research Director


Public Interest Legal Foundation

CC: Senator Janet D. Howell (D-32)


Senator R. Creigh Deeds (D-25)
Senator John S. Edwards (D-21)
Senator Bryce E. Reeves (R-17)
Senator Adam P. Ebbin (D-30)
Senator A. Benton Ben Chafin (R-38)
Senator Bill R. DeSteph, Jr. (R-8)
Senator Amanda F. Chase (R-11)

2
Richmond Times-Dispatch; McAuliffe vetoes bill on voter registration requirements (3/23/16),
http://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/government-politics/article_aab9ff41-33b6-556b-b789-a34d60d1d5fb.html
3
Kansas Department of Health and Environment; Birth Certificate for Voter ID (accessed 2/6/17),
http://www.kdheks.gov/vital/birth_cert_voter_ID_guidance.htm
4
Texas Department of State Health Services; Birth Certificate for Election Identification (accessed 2/6/17),
https://www.dshs.texas.gov/vs/field/Birth-Certificate-for-Election-Identification.doc
Senator Frank M. Ruff, Jr. (R-15)
Senator John A. Cosgrove, Jr. (R-14)
Senator Rosalyn R. Dance (D-16)
Senator Lionell Spruill, Sr. (D-5)
Senator Mark J. Peake (R-22)