Non-U.S. citizens on Michigan voter rolls contacted by state to expedite removal from voter files

LANSING, Mich. – More than 600 registered Michigan voters, verified as non-U.S. citizens by federal records, will receive a notice this week asking them to contact state election officials to be removed from Michigan’s voter rolls.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said the notice is part of ongoing efforts to ensure integrity in the state’s voter rolls while at the same time protecting non-citizens.   

“We have an obligation to deal with this issue, not ignore it, or we are doing a disservice to every legitimate voter in Michigan,” Johnson said. “For more than 30 years, our branch clerks were required by the feds to ask every customer, regardless of citizenship, if they wanted to register to vote. We have since changed the procedures but some people remain on the voter rolls.”

Some of these individuals registered inadvertently, Johnson said, “but the law is clear – only U.S. citizens may be registered to vote and vote on Election Day.”

Non-citizens who register and vote can face criminal charges and deportation. Recently, a noncitizen who resided in Macomb County was charged with voter fraud for registering to vote. In Berrien County, another noncitizen was sentenced to 10 days in jail for voter fraud for voting in the 2008 election. A Canadian national who voted in elections at least half a dozen times between 2000 and 2010 has been removed from voter rolls in Livingston County. In Kalamazoo County, a noncitizen who believed he was legally able to vote had his attempt at becoming a U.S. citizen jeopardized in 2011 after telling federal officials that he had voted numerous times.

Individuals who will receive the letter indicated they were not U.S. citizens when they applied for their driver’s license or personal ID card but they appear on Michigan’s Qualified Voter File. Their status was recently verified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Since her election, Johnson has taken a hard line on election integrity issues. Her Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) initiative included one law requiring voters to attest, when they sign their ballot applications, that they meet all qualifications to vote, including age, residence and U.S. citizenship.

She also expanded the use of Social Security lists to remove those who have died from the voter rolls and joined a 21-state project to cross-check voter registration records to identify those who are registered in Michigan and another state. She is working with U.S. Rep. Candice Miller on a bill to prevent voters from being registered in two states concurrently.

At the same time, Johnson has expanded efforts to encourage those who are eligible to register and vote. Secretary of State employees offer voter registration to those who are eligible to vote, birthday postcards are sent to 18-year-olds with a license or state ID reminding them to register to vote. State election workers also attend naturalization ceremonies throughout the state, offering voter registration to newly sworn citizens. Her mobile office promotes voter registration throughout the state.

Michigan’s aggressive voter registration efforts have resulted in more than 97 percent of eligible electorate registered to vote.

“Voting is one of our most precious freedoms and is really the cornerstone of democracy,” Johnson said. “I have an obligation to the citizens of this state to ensure that there is integrity in the system.”