A massive study of 2 recent elections reveals that hundreds of thousands of votes were cast illegally by “non-citizens.” And while it is not possible to say with any certainty that the illegal votes cost Republicans elections, the evidence strongly suggests that at least one Senate race was decided by the illegal votes.
The study appears in the journal of Electoral Studies and looked at 32,800 votes in 2008 and 55,400 votes in 2010.
Our data comes from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES). Its large number of observations (32,800 in 2008 and 55,400 in 2010) provide sufficient samples of the non-immigrant sub-population, with 339 non-citizen respondents in 2008 and 489 in 2010. For the 2008 CCES, we also attempted to match respondents to voter files so that we could verify whether they actually voted.
How many non-citizens participate in U.S. elections? More than 14 percent of non-citizens in both the 2008 and 2010 samples indicated that they were registered to vote. Furthermore, some of these non-citizens voted. Our best guess, based upon extrapolations from the portion of the sample with a verified vote, is that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent of non-citizens voted in 2010.
Because non-citizens tended to favor Democrats (Obama won more than 80 percent of the votes of non-citizens in the 2008 CCES sample), we find that this participation was large enough to plausibly account for Democratic victories in a few close elections. Non-citizen votes could have given Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health-care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) won election in 2008 with a victory margin of 312 votes. Votes cast by just 0.65 percent of Minnesota non-citizens could account for this margin. It is also possible that non-citizen votes were responsible for Obama’s 2008 victory in North Carolina. Obama won the state by 14,177 votes, so a turnout by 5.1 percent of North Carolina’s adult non-citizens would have provided this victory margin.
We also find that one of the favorite policies advocated by conservatives to prevent voter fraud appears strikingly ineffective. Nearly three quarters of the non-citizens who indicated they were asked to provide photo identification at the polls claimed to have subsequently voted.
An alternative approach to reducing non-citizen turnout might emphasize public information. Unlike other populations, including naturalized citizens, education is not associated with higher participation among non-citizens. In 2008, non-citizens with less than a college degree were significantly more likely to cast a validated vote, and no non-citizens with a college degree or higher cast a validated vote. This hints at a link between non-citizen voting and lack of awareness about legal barriers.
There are obvious limitations to our research, which one should take account of when interpreting the results. Although the CCES sample is large, the non-citizen portion of the sample is modest, with the attendant uncertainty associated with sampling error. We analyze only 828 self-reported non-citizens. Self-reports of citizen status might also be a source of error, although the appendix of our paper shows that the racial, geographic, and attitudinal characteristics of non-citizens (and non-citizen voters) are consistent with their self-reported status.
Another possible limitation is the matching process conducted by Catalyst to verify registration and turnout drops many non-citizen respondents who cannot be matched. Our adjusted estimate assumes the implication of a “registered” or “voted” response among those who Catalyst could not match is the same as for those whom it could.
It’s not possible to differentiate in the study between the votes of legal residents with Green Cards and other documentation and illegal aliens. Hence, the term “non-citizen.” For electoral purposes, it hardly matters. Both groups are ineligible to vote and the fact that fully 80% of these illegal voters vote for Democrats gives the other party a huge incentive to drive these people to the polls.
The study’s authors claims that voter ID is useless in preventing this kind of illegal voting and they’re probably correct. The problem is illegal voters registering to vote in the first place, something that voter ID wouldn’t prevent. Clearly, Democrat-supporting voter registration groups don’t care if someone can legally vote or not. If it can be proven that they target these voters for registration, a massive fraud on the voter will be revealed.
This was another issue that anti-voter ID advocates said was a miniscule problem. Even if the study overstates the number of illegal votes by 50%, it is still a massive problem that needs to be addressed if the integrity of the ballot box is to be maintained.