- The Washington Times - Monday, September 3, 2018

Elvis David Fullerton has voted in 16 elections in North Carolina dating back nearly two decades.

The only problem, authorities say, is he’s not a citizen and never should have been on the voter rolls, much less allowed to step into a polling booth to cast a ballot.

Mr. Fullerton, who is still a citizen of Grenada, is one of 19 North Carolinians the federal government indicted last month on charges of illegal voting. Yet even now, his name remains on the state’s rolls in Wake County, and local officials say there’s not much they can do about it.

“At this time I’ve not been made aware of any formal source to remove anybody,” said Gary Sims, elections board director in Wake, where five of the 19, including Mr. Fullerton, were registered. Three of them are still on his rolls.

Mr. Sims said an indictment or sworn affidavit isn’t even enough for him to begin an investigation, saying he needs a notification from an “official or formal source.”

Yet the indictments, which got only cursory attention nationally, do offer unprecedented insight into the contours of illegal voting in the U.S.

The first clear conclusion is that most non-citizens who sign up to vote appear to do so at motor vehicle bureaus. Of the 18 accused voters for which The Washington Times was able to find state records, all of them registered at North Carolina DMVs.

And of those 18, 13 were registered as Democrats, four as Republicans and one unaffiliated with a party. While a small sample, that does suggest Democrats may be benefitting more from illegal non-citizen voting than Republicans.

Mr. Sims, the elections official in Wake County, said he can’t begin a review of people the federal government says are voting illegally until a more “verifiable” source comes forward.

He said his main role in registration is to make sure people fill out their information correctly, and he said he relies on checks to clear his rolls of people who moved out of the area, or who have passed away. But Mr. Sims acknowledged none of those checks would catch non-citizens.

“That really is managed by the North Carolina state Board of Elections,” he said.

Perhaps it’s time local officials take a more proactive approach, said Logan Churchwell at the Public Interest Legal Foundation, which has done pioneering work in tracking down non-citizens on voting rolls, and which uncovered many of the names still registered in North Carolina last month.

“These are registrants facing federal indictments for election crimes. In the face of new law enforcement efforts, the standard operating procedure may not always apply,” Mr. Churchwell said.

He also said the fact that all of the registrants were listed as having signed up at motor vehicle bureaus pointed clearly at a flaw in the system: the Clinton-era National Voter Registration Act, more commonly known as the Motor Voter law, because it requires states to push voter registration on people who show up to conduct business at DMVs.

Non-citizens can easily sign up, either by accident or on purpose, and as Mr. Sims pointed out, there are no easy ways to skim them out of the pool.

“Incidents like this demonstrate why we need to put Motor Voter back on the table for reform — all of it,” Mr. Churchwell said. “Maintenance stagnation breeds voter roll bloat and can only harm confidence in the system as a result.”

The PILF released a report last week tracking 13 cities and counties with sanctuary policies, and counted more than 3,000 non-citizens who’ve been stripped from their voting rolls in recent years.

Those are usually people who either self-reported or were flagged as illegal voters, and it doesn’t capture the potentially hundreds of thousands of others who have not outed their unauthorized voting behavior, analysts said.

Federal officials declined to say how the 19 people in North Carolina came to their attention.

The court-appointed lawyer for Mr. Fullerton didn’t respond to a message seeking comment.

Others among the 19 include Alessandro Cannizzaro, an Italian, was granted legal permanent residence in the U.S. in 1985, and applied for citizenship in 2003 — but was denied four years later. Still, in 2008 he swore he was a citizen when he registered to vote in Wake County, and did in fact cast ballots in 2008, 2012 and 2016, according to state records.

His name has been dropped from the voter rolls.

Yet another of the 19, Ramon Esteban Paez-Jerez, of the Dominican Republic, was ordered deported in 1988 but never showed up for his deportation. Instead he adopted a fake identity and managed to win citizenship under that name in 1999, prosecutors said.

The government didn’t divulge the fake identity in court documents, and The Times was unable to track his voting history — though prosecutors said he, too, was registered in Wake County.

Patrick Gannon, spokesman for the state elections board, said the indictments presented “somewhat of a unique situation” to officials.

“We do not have a regular voter list maintenance process to identify and remove non-U.S. citizens from the voter rolls, at least partly because there is no comprehensive citizenship database to rely upon,” he said.

He agreed with Mr. Sims that a sworn affidavit from a federal agent wasn’t enough to kick someone off the rolls — though he did say officials can approach the person and ask him or her to withdraw from the voter list voluntarily.

Mr. Gannon said the elections board is drafting a letter to the Justice Department asking that the state be notified of defendants who admit they aren’t citizens, or who are convicted of voter fraud, which he said will be enough for locals like Mr. Sims to start investigations.

And in part to combat non-citizen voting, North Carolina will have signs posted at every polling place this year alerting people that if they are voting, they are asserting that they are eligible citizens.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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