FREDERICKSBURG — Virginia is on track to remove more noncitizens from its voting rolls than ever.
Not enough, say tea party and patriot groups.
So far this year, 895 noncitizens have been booted off county voting lists, a report obtained by Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau says.
That figure, compiled through June, puts the state on a pace to exceed previous years.
Last year, 1,376 noncitizens were purged by registrars; 1,368 were removed in 2010. In 2009, 281 people were kicked off, says a report by the State Board of Elections.
The biggest increases in removals came, not surprisingly, from some of the most populous counties — Fairfax, Loudon, Norfolk and Prince William — as well as the cities of Newport News, Richmond and Virginia Beach.
Combined, the seven jurisdictions accounted for 2,052 cancellations, or 52.3 percent of the statewide total over the past 3 1/2 years.
Meantime, 23 counties, primarily in the western and southwestern regions of the state, reported that no noncitizens were removed during the reporting period.
Jeff Caldwell, communications director for Gov. Bob McDonnell, said, “There are many efforts under way to update Virginia voter registration rolls.
“Recent legislation and governor actions have required the State Board of Elections to issue new voter registration cards to every registered voter in Virginia, and the SBE has been working to update their contact lists for all voters to eliminate any issues with voters who are no longer eligible to vote in Virginia elections,” Caldwell said.
The state’s action comes after Florida’s long-running fight with the federal government to remove unqualified voters.
Florida Watchdog reported this week: ”After letters, threats and lawsuits culminating over several months, the Department of Homeland Security said it will give state elections officials access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements database, or SAVE, a comprehensive list of resident aliens who are living and working in the United States.”
Justin Riemer, deputy secretary of the State Board of Elections, said Virginia was considering getting the SAVE list.
“We’re looking at feasibility of it. It’s a fluid situation, and we’re closely monitoring it,” he said.
“People are coming out of the woodwork on this issue before the election.”
The final day to register to vote in the November election is Oct. 15.
Reagan George, founder of the Virginia Voters Alliance and a tea party member, believes the state could be doing more.
He said Virginia should get tough about demanding photo IDs and proof of citizenship before allowing people to register to vote.
“I’m amazed that the Republicans in this state don’t care more,” George said. “The bureaucrats just don’t seem incentivized.”
The VVA is frustrated by local court officials who tell them that jury-excusal lists — which are being used in Florida to cross-reference with voter-registration rolls to ferret out noncitizens — aren’t public record.
“If the Freedom of Information Act won’t work, a lawsuit may be the only way,” George told Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau.
Cameron Quinn, general registrar of Fairfax County, said, “We know that many times noncitizens get on the voter rolls inadvertently, often because English is not their first language.
“Identifying who they are is the difficulty, however, since it is not as if the Department of Homeland Security shares its list of noncitizens. Without an individual’s confirmation, or official documentation, are we are not able to directly remove individuals, even with someone reporting them, due to the National Voter Registration Act, or Motor Voter law.
Revealingly, Quinn adds:
“Most noncitizens only get removed if they contact the (registrar’s) office, usually when they get a voter card and realize there was a mistake from a DMV transaction.”
Quinn told Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau his office, with the help of the Fairfax Clerk of Court’s office, was able to excise 30 noncitizens from the voting rolls last winter.
“Thirty-eight of these noncitizens had received the annual jury questionnaire mailing, and had sent back indicating they were not qualified because they were not citizens. Because we already had received some of these names and canceled them, we had a net removal of 30 noncitizens at one time,” he said.
Greg Letiecq, a member of the Manassas Tea Party, agrees with some officials who complain the Motor Voter law has opened the door to vote fraud — be it intentional or unintentional.
“After Virginia tightened the law about driver’s licenses, we still had illegal aliens applying for them using fraudulent documents. Document review at DMV is cursory at best, and apparently quite a few fell through the cracks,” Letiecq said.
Letiecq, who lives in Prince William County, suspects that the state’s compilation failed to capture noncitizens who have overstayed their visas or who are otherwise classified as illegal aliens.
“They may be only catching 50 percent.” he estimated.
Letiecq says, “Ensuring the integrity of our elections is absolutely critical. Sometimes these are very close.
“For example, Ken Cuccinelli won a state Senate election in 2007 over Janet Oleszek by 101 votes, well within the margin of potentially fraudulent votes when you consider these Senate districts contain on average about 200,000 people.
“Fraud can have enormous impacts, not only on who wins and who loses, but on what this state is.”