With 2012 being an election year, election laws and election rules are in the news again as the country gears up to elect its leaders. One of the most basic rules of voting in US elections is that only US citizens have the right to vote. Indeed, the right to vote is considered to be one of the most important privileges and rights of citizenship. There are many systems in place – including a voter registration process — to ensure that only eligible voters are allowed to vote. Nevertheless, there have been a number of news stories recently about the possibility of thousands of unqualified non-citizens voters on voter rolls in Florida and in other states.
According to some sources, there may be over 2000 non-citizen individuals on voter rolls in Miami alone and thousands more across the state. Some claim that some of these voters could have already cast votes in previous elections, despite not being qualified to do so, and there is growing pressure on lawmakers and elections officials to scrub voter rolls so that only citizens are allowed to vote this year.
According to some investigative journalists, the elections supervisor is looking at the 2000 possibly unqualified voters in Miami-Dade. In Broward, 260 possible non-citizens on voter rolls are getting closer scrutiny. In one case, one suspected ineligible voter has been a registered voter for four decades and may have been casting ballots for that long. It is expected that elections officials will contact these suspect voters and ask them to verify their eligibility to vote and their citizenship status. However, answers about how many non-citizens have cast votes in the past may never be forthcoming.
When registering to vote, potential voters must declare that they are eligible, of age, and US citizens to qualify. The declaration is considered an oath. Those who are caught being dishonest may face serious consequences. They are reported to the State Attorney’s office and may face charges of voter fraud. This is a third-degree felony. Those convicted may face up to $5000 in fines and up to five years in prison.
In the past twelve months, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the Division of Election, and county election supervisors have been working together to determine who on the rolls is eligible to vote and who is not. Some predict that the total number of non-eligible voters may be much higher than the numbers now predicted. However, some experts note that the number of non-eligible voters on the rolls may be overstated. They note that it takes about six months to a year to become a US citizen, but Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and other government records may be updated far less frequently. Feasibly, some citizens may seem to be ineligible because when they apply for their driver’s license they may not be US citizens but they may secure citizenship before voting. Only a thorough investigation and a re-check of suspect registered voters will produce answers.