How often do non-US citizens vote in Wisconsin elections?

Nearly 300,000 residents of Wisconsin who are not U.S. citizens have been issued driver licenses or ID cards — the state elections agency notes its policies in response to concerns raised over fraud.

By Steven Potter, Frederica Freyberg | Here & Now

April 12, 2024

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A proposed state constitutional amendment on the November 2024 ballot in Wisconsin specifies that only a United States citizen age 18 or older may vote in an election for national, state or local office or referendum. The proposal would change current constitutional language from “every” U.S. citizen to “only” a U.S. citizen. Republican authors of the proposed amendment say it’s needed because some states have allowed non-U.S. citizens to vote in local elections.

With migration being a prime campaign issue, former President Donald Trump is pushing fears of noncitizens voting.

Convinced of fraud in the 2020 election, people at a March election education event in West Bend raised a worry over immigrants voting illegally in 2024. Several of those in attendance raised the same concern.

“Our state issues valid driver’s licenses to people who are not citizens and are not eligible to vote,” said one woman. “If one of those individuals possess their driver’s license to register to vote – how do you catch that?”

Another man mentioned the numbers, stating, “…In the last five years, the state of Wisconsin has issued driver’s licenses to over a quarter million — non legal, illegal, whatever the right terminology is – immigrants in the state.”

That number is correct and refers to non-U.S. citizens who are legally present in the state as permanent residents or temporary visitors.

The Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles confirmed to PBS Wisconsin that the agency has issued more than 258,000 driver licenses and 41,000 photo ID cards to non-citizens since 2019.

Those Wisconsin driver licenses or photo IDs are stamped with “limited term” or “non-domiciled” unless the person is a permanent resident noncitizen, whose cards have no such stamp.

To be clear, a valid Wisconsin driver license or state photo ID is required to vote. But noncitizens cannot legally use their IDs or licenses to register and vote.

Despite concerns that they are voting in large numbers, the Wisconsin Elections Commission said that since 2019, there have been three noncitizens who have been referred for prosecution for voting illegally, mostly for misunderstanding their eligibility.

The question of eligibility and citizenship happens before anyone casts a ballot. When registering to vote, a person must certify under penalty of law that they’re a U.S. citizen.

The elections commission said non-citizens risk being arrested, jailed and deported if they did vote illegally.

But as to the question of catching that, the Wisconsin Elections Commission explained: “There is no mechanism available to conduct real-time checks on a voter’s citizenship status. No state or federal law requires the WEC or clerks to verify a voter’s citizenship status.”

But, the elections commission also said “there is not evidence to support the idea that non-citizens are voting in Wisconsin in significant numbers.”

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