- The Washington Times - Monday, February 13, 2017

Non-citizens who register to vote are breaking federal laws and can be deported, an appeals court affirmed in a new ruling Monday, issuing its decision just as President Trump raised the profile of the issue, asking for a study of illegal voting.

Margarita Del Pilar Fitzpatrick had registered to vote in Illinois, and had even cast ballots in two federal elections, despite being a citizen of Peru, not the U.S.

That was enough to trigger an American law that allows the government to kick out non-citizens who vote illegally, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

The case was prosecuted and argued last month by the Obama administration. The administration had the option of using prosecutorial discretion to let her stay, but said she was a priority for deportation, the court said.

Ms. Fitzpatrick had registered to vote when she went to get a driver’s license. Under the federal motor-voter law, she was given the option to check a box signaling she was a citizen and wanted to vote.

She said she asked the employee if she should check it, and the employee said, “it’s up to you.”

In court, Ms. Fitzpatrick tried to raise that as a defense, with her lawyers saying it was equivalent to entrapment because a state official had told her to sign up. But the three-judge panel rejected that argument, saying the employee wasn’t encouraging her, only telling her it was her choice.

Besides, the judges said, Ms. Fitzpatrick understood English and had even worked as a translator, so there was no confusion about language.

The case came to light because she raised the issue herself on her 2007 application for citizenship, reporting that she had in fact registered and voted despite laws against it.

Mr. Trump contends that millions of people cast illegal votes in last year’s election, denying him a popular vote victory, even though he won the Electoral College handily.

Fact-checkers have disputed his claims, saying there’s no evidence of that level of fraud, but voting integrity group Public Interest Legal Foundation said Ms. Fitzpatrick’s case proves how tough it can be to determine the extent of illegal voting unless people self-report their violations.

“This case demonstrates how difficult it is to pursue non-citizen voting crimes without verification measures in voter registration and a federal government that has expressed clear disinterest in combating the problem until now,” said PILF President J. Christian Adams. “The Trump administration has the right and responsibility to study the true extent of illegal voting by ineligible persons. Hopefully, this case marks a new chapter for election integrity in the years ahead.”

The appeals court case highlighted some of the problems with the federal laws making it easy to register to vote at motor vehicle bureaus.

According to the judges, federal law forbids officials from saying anything that might discourage someone from registering, leaving the employee in this case to make the “unhelpful” statement that it was up to Ms. Fitzpatrick.

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