CHICAGO — Illinois lawmakers are raising questions about the integrity of state elections after the secretary of state admitted hundreds of non-citizens were registered as voters, and could have cast ballots illegally in the 2018 election.
In a letter, Secretary of State Jesse White’s office said a “programming error” in a signature pad at driver services facilities led to hundreds of non-U.S. citizens accidentally being registered as voters.
The Secretary of State’s Office said the problem has been fixed Tuesday, but state lawmakers and election authorities are just beginning to raise concerns.
“We view it as a significant problem," said Matt Dietrich of the Illinois State Board Of Elections.
In 2017, then-governor Bruce Rauner signed the “Automatic Voter Registration” bill into law. It requires eligible Illinois citizens to be automatically registered to vote when they apply for or renew a driver's license or ID, unless they choose to opt out.
“For whatever reason that technological programming error did not properly remove the individuals," the letter said. "The individuals who are applying for driver's license were inadvertently pooled into the automatic voter registration."
A spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office says the non-citizens who were registered to vote are here legally. They are not undocumented immigrants, and they did not lie on their forms; it was the state error that signed them up to vote.
“We discovered an error, and we fixed it. And then we notified the State Board of Elections and the local election authorities and the individuals that were impacted," they said in the statement.
The scale of the problem is relatively small; of the 574 people who could have been registered, only 16 actually cast ballots.
“Even though, in the grand scheme of our election registration numbers and the voting numbers, the figures that we’re looking at are very small,” said Matt Dietrich of the Illinois State Board of Elections. "This issue is significant in terms of we want to make sure there is complete integrity with our automatic voter registration system."
The State Board of Elections says three of those non-citizen ballots were cast in Chicago. The state is working with local election authorities to make sure anyone who was mistakenly registered is taken off the rolls.
Republican lawmakers who have long raised concerns over potential voter fraud say the error undermines the integrity of state elections.
“I don't have a lot of confidence in the Secretary of State's Office right now,” said Illinois State Representative Tim Butler (R-Springfield).
Butler is demanding a House investigation into Jesse White’s office.
“He may or may not have known about this, I have no idea. But he needs to be held responsible for it; it's his operation that allowed this to happen,” Butler said.
In a written statement, the state GOP chairman called for heads to roll, saying:
"It simply is inexcusable that non-citizens voted in Illinois and potentially affected the outcome of elections across the state. Those in the Secretary of State’s Office who allowed this to happen should be terminated from their employment with the State."