Non-Citizens Don’t Have to be Removed from Voting Rolls, Even If They Tell You

Houston's County Registrar Ann Harris Bennett has undertaken an incredible, unprecedented action:

Houston’s registrar says she’s under no obligation to remove non-citizens from her voter rolls under the National Voter Registration Act, testing the limits of how far states and localities can go in trying to thwart efforts to clean up their election lists. 

Ann Harris Bennett, registrar for Harris County in Texas, is battling to keep secret the names of non-citizens who signed up to vote and, in some cases, may have even cast ballots. In a federal court filing last week she said people can be removed for other reasons, but there is no requirement she erase names of people even after they tell her they aren’t citizens. [Emphasis added.]

We need to parse that last sentence briefly.  Registrar Bennett is saying that if non-citizens tell her they are not eligible to vote, she does not have to remove them from the voter rolls.  

 This is frightening on multiple levels:  

  • There is no good reason for a person to be on the voter registration list if they tell you they cannot legally vote.  There are examples of "bad names" on the list, which could contribute to vote fraud.    
  • Also, this action alone could seriously injure or damage those non-citizens' ability to become citizens.

In Philadelphia, it was uncovered that more than 100,000 noncitizens may be registered to vote.  However, unlike Houston, Philadelphia Election Commissioner Al Schmidt was concerned not just about the voter rolls, but also for the non-citizens:

Schmidt says those people should be contacted. Besides the issue of election integrity, he says registering to vote – even unintentionally – will derail an immigrant’s path to US citizenship.

Yet, Bennett does not want to remove non-citizens, even if they are trying to do the right thing and telling her they are not citizens.  This is very troubling and Ms. Bennett should resign for the sake of all involved, including the non-citizens.