In Michigan’s Feb. 28 Republican presidential primary, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson added a check-off for voters to affirm their U.S. citizenship at the polls in effort to stop non-citizens from voting.
There are an unknown number of legal permanent residents in the state who are not U.S. citizens but have been registered to vote over the years through automatic registration at state motor vehicle offices, said Chris Hackbarth, director of government affairs for the Department of State.
After the primary, Johnson’s office received anecdotal reports from election clerks on documented non-citizens attempting to vote.
The Michigan Democratic Party filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the reports and Johnson’s office disclosed that just four of the 1.2 million GOP primary voters were found to be non-citizens, said MDP Chairman Mark Brewer.
Brewer highlighted the low number during a House committee hearing Tuesday morning on Senate Bill 803, which would make Johnson’s citizenship check a new law. It was the House Redistricting and Elections Committee’s second day of hearings on a package of election and voting law bills.
“This is simply not a problem in Michigan and this is a bill in search of a solution,” Brewer said. “This bill simply panders to unfounded irrational fears.”
Brewer said the information obtained the Democrats obtained through FOIA also revealed the non-citizens attempted to vote or did vote in traditionally Republican areas — Kent County’s Gaines Township and Oakland County’s Bloomfield Township and Clarkston.
“We all know the phrase non-citizens is simply a code phrase for illegal aliens,” Brewer said.
Rep. Ed McBroom, vice chair of the committee, took issue with Brewer’s characterization of the term non-citizens, which the Secretary of State’s Office defines as permanent legal residents who aren’t naturalized or U.S.-born citizens.
Noting a few examples of local elections across the state decided by a few votes in recent years, McBroom defended the requirements in Senate Bill 803.
“It seems like a very low threshold of burden to place on the voter for an issue that is relevant,” said McBroom, R-Vulcan.