Foreign nationals automatically registered to vote in Washington state: report

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The Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) received numerous reports of foreign nationals being automatically registered to vote in the state during recent election cycles. Some reports were even in cases where the foreigners insisted to the department itself that they were not legally allowed to vote.

The Democratic-controlled Legislature passed House Bill 2595 in 2018, which automatically registers people to vote when they are issued a driver’s license or renew an existing license. Additionally, state law does not allow the Washington Secretary of State’s Office (SOS) to verify citizenship when they receive a voter’s registration.

According to emails obtained by The Center Square, a public disclosure request revealed instances where foreign nationals were registered to vote, even in some cases when they insisted while obtaining a license that they were not US citizens.

Vanessa Mathisen, an immigration attorney with World Relief Spokane, stated in a Nov. 7, 2018 email that “many of our clients are unwittingly getting registered to vote when they get their IDs, apply or receive any state benefits. Sometimes we find out because they get a summons for jury duty. Others we do not discover have been registered until they decide to apply for citizenship.”

She added, “in my discussion with the Spokane Voter Registration office, they said that they were told that it’s not a problem if a non-citizen registers to vote. That is false. It is a problem. I don’t know what’s going on at the DOL counters exactly, but I do know that nearly all of my clients that have been registered to vote do not recall doing so, do not recall whether they were asked if they are a US citizen, and 100% of the time either did not speak English or they did not speak English well enough to understand the questions being posed to them.”