Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Illegal aliens are eroding the integrity of U.S. elections, and will continue to do so without tighter voting laws, several members of Congress testified at a hearing on Capitol Hill yesterday.

“There is a very real possibility that noncitizens have affected the outcomes of elections in the past, and will in the future,” said Rep. Brian P. Bilbray, California Republican, before a House Judiciary Committee on voting irregularities and election deception.

With more than 20 million foreign-born residents in the United States who are not U.S. citizens, including at least 12 million illegal aliens, the potential for noncitizen voting is a growing concern, Mr. Bilbray said.

Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, said illegal aliens in many states can easily acquire driver’s licenses, making it easy for them to register to vote, especially states with “motor-voter” laws.

“With many states making driver’s licenses available to legal noncitizens and illegal aliens, it is probable voter rolls contain large numbers of noncitizens and illegal aliens,” Mr. King said.

But several Democrats said the intimidation of immigrant voters — not the voting of illegal aliens — is the biggest election-reform priority.

“Election intimidation and deception have become an unfortunate aspect of recent federal elections, threatening to undermine Americans’ confidence in a democratic government,” said Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

“Our goal is to protect every citizen’s constitutional right to vote, and to thwart any future attempts to disenfranchise eligible voters through fraud, deception and intimidation.”

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, accused Republicans of distributing fraudulent “official Democratic voter guides” during his 2006 re-election bid in an attempt to confuse black voters to vote for his Republican challenger.

“It is time for Congress to once again take action to stop the latest reprehensible tactics that are being used against African-American voters,” Mr. Cardin said.

In response to voter-intimidation cases, Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, earlier this year introduced the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Act, which would impose penalties on people or groups found guilty of intimidating voters.

As for ID issues, Mr. Bilbray said the new REAL ID law, which will require states to verify proof of citizenship before issuing driver’s licenses and voter identification cards, will greatly help combat fraudulent voting.

“Many people tend to think that the photo ID requirement would suppress voting, but there has never been evidence to support that assertion,” Mr. Bilbray said. “Much to the contrary — evidence shows that anti-fraud provisions increase voter turnout.”

Mr. Bilbray added that more than a 100 democracies worldwide require voters to show photo IDs, including Mexico.

Earlier this month, the Bush administration delayed the start date for the REAL ID law from May 11, 2008, to Dec. 31, 2009.

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