Updated: Secretary of State Sam Reed’s elections staffers have finally been promised access to a federal immigration database that they asked Homeland Security for but were rebuffed – in 2005 and 2006. But now, whether Washington has the tools to actually use the data remains a big question at a time the question of citizenship checks is becoming a campaign issue in the election of Reed’s successor.
Last week she criticized his request to get access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (or SAVE) program’s database. The system is typically used to verify immigration status for the purposes of determining eligibility for public-paid benefits.
In a news release, Drew said Reed should be paying for the voter guide “rather than using scarce resources to chase nonexistent fraud” by immigrants on voter rolls.
It’s worth noting that Drew is not alone in suggesting voting by noncitizens is a red herring. Most other candidates in the race, including Reed’s Republican friend Kim Wyman, also think voter fraud by immigrants is not a problem in Washington.
I put in queries about the new data source to the state elections office late Friday. After a follow-up email today, I got answers about what is going on from state elections co-director Shane Hamlin.
“There is no chance we will use screen the federal data against the voter rolls before the Primary [Aug. 7], and very little chance we will do so before the General Election [Nov. 6] ,” Hamlin wrote back. “It’s just too early to tell, given that we a number of critical questions to research.” Hamlin added that the state’s requests for the database go back to 2005 and 2006 and Homeland Security rejected them.
Updated: Access was promised to state election officials granted only after Florida won a court case on the matter and – now – the state’s lack of access to alien ID numbers might make the data useless:
So it appears Drew jumped the gun a bit with her claims. Here is her news release:
The news report Drew cites is here. In his longer response to Drew’s charges, Hamlin said:
UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: David Ammons, spokesman for Reed’s office, said in an email that the elections agency actually has no database in hand. He also said that the SAVE data is “not a database per se” that would be handed over for an en masse check of the state’s voter database. Rather, it is something that would be checked on a case-by-case basis.
But, as Hamlin had noted, Ammons said it does not appear the state Department of Licensing has the alien identification codes. That is because Washington does not require proof of citizenship or legal immigration status in order to get a driver license.