4 On Your Side exposes illegal voting in New Mexico
Posted at: 11/05/2012 10:06 PM
| Updated at: 11/06/2012 9:07 AM
By: Gadi Schwartz and Peter St. Cyr, KOB Eyewitness News
It was a simple handwritten note left for the Sandoval County clerk that read, "I would like to have my voter registration card cancelled, please and thank you."
The note was short and polite, but it immediately raised red flags about the woman who left it.
It didn't take long before election officials learned the reason for the request: The woman was not a United States citizen.
A review of the woman’s voting record showed she had cast a ballot in nearly every election since registering as a Republican inside a Motor Vehicle Office in 2005.
She is not alone.
4 On Your Side also tracked down a Mexican National who has been voting since 1998, casting his ballot a total of 26 times.
That man, who lives in Nambe, cast his first ballot after he said a third party agent told him he could register to vote even though he was not a citizen. He registered as a Democrat and has been living in the country as a legal resident.
A review of voter registration cards shows both non-citizens signed in a box that reads, “I swear or affirm that I am a citizen of the United States.”
The man admitted to not reading and understanding the fine print.
The woman didn’t answer our questions.
Providing false information during voter registration is a 4th degree felony, but so far neither individual has been charged with a crime because statutorily, too much time has passed since they registered to pursue prosecution.
Public records show both individuals received letters from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service this year regarding their applications for citizenship. Both were informed they had to cancel their registration.
The letter also included a warning: “You MUST COMPLY with this requirement. Failure to submit your requested information will result in denial of your [naturalization] application."
The man told 4OYS that’s when he panicked.
“I told the Secretary of State that if this is going to stop me from becoming a U.S. citizen all I want to do is just have my conscience clean, to not be doing what I wasn't suppose to do.”
Voting is a constitutional right, so that may explain why state lawmakers designed voter registration to be quick and easy. But, Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran is worried it may be too simple.
To register, all a person needs is a social security number, local address and to check a box confirming they are U.S. citizens over the age of 18 and not a felon still under supervision by the Department of Corrections.
Currently, there is no system in place to determine if the individual is actually a legal citizen.
The process is so simple at least two people have registered their dogs in Bernalillo County in the past five years.
Duran believes that many times, unqualified third party agents registering people to vote are often not educated about the law and may believe someone with legal status and a social security number may be eligible to vote.
Duran also said The National Voter Registration Act requires employees at MVD offices to ask all customers if they would like to register to vote.
“That gives the impression to someone coming in that 'I can register to vote',” Duran said.
“We've requested assistance from Homeland Security and as of today, of course, have not heard anything back from them.”
On the last day to register to vote this year, Four On Your Side secretly recorded several third party agents to find out how familiar they are with the law.
At a Walmart in Albuquerque, two registration agents seemed confused about immigration issues.
Our producer told them he was from Canada, but living here legally.
“I don’t know the immigration stuff,” a registrar told him. “You said you’re here legally?”
Eventually, after re-reading the form, our producer was told he should not register.
Duran says a lot of work still needs to be done.
“Both educating those persons who registered them to vote and getting the word out to these people that if you're not a citizen you should not sign that form and you should not register.”