Despite the lack of evidence of widespread voter fraud by immigrants, several states recently have implemented policies to remove ineligible voters from registration rolls and to prevent them from voting on election day. Many advocates consider these restrictive policies to be efforts to suppress minority voting. Recently, the USCIS granted the state of Florida access the federal electronic Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program (the “SAVE” program) to verify its voter registration rolls.
Florida wrote to USCIS in June to clarify the way it intends to use the SAVE system. When any noncitizen applies for a driver’s license in Florida, s/he must show proof of lawful immigration status. Florida is now proposing to identify the names of all noncitizens who have applied for driver’s licenses in the past and compare these names to current voter registration rolls. The cross-listed names will then be run through the SAVE program. In theory, the SAVE program would confirm whether these individuals have become a U.S. citizens (or have “naturalized”) between the time they applied for a driver’s license (which may be many years in the past) and the time they registered to vote.
The SAVE program was created to allow states to verify eligibility for public benefits; it was not created to verify voters, and the eligibility criteria are not the same. It is not a single, unified database and it does not contain a comprehensive list of U.S. citizens. Additionally, experts have identified holes, delays and errors in the operation of the SAVE program. Please see this helpful fact sheet from the Immigration Policy Center. USCIS offers webinar trainings on its SAVE program.
Florida has been asking for access to the SAVE program for years. In June, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sued the state of Florida over its controversial attempt to purge its voter rolls. But after DOJ lost in court, USCIS agreed to grant Florida access to the SAVE program. Other states are now asking USCIS for similar access to the SAVE program for voter verification.
Please contact CLINIC’s State & Local Advocacy Attorney Karen Siciliano Lucas at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 635-7410 for more information.