The Administration strongly supports protecting the integrity of elections
and agrees that voter eligibility determinations must be conducted in a
non-discriminatory fashion. For the principal reasons explained below,
however, H.R. 1428 fails to achieve those goals. Thus, the Administration
strongly opposes enactment of H.R. 1428. If this bill as introduced were
presented to the President, the Attorney General and the Commissioner of
Social Security would recommend that he veto it.
First, H.R. 1428 would be so cumbersome as to likely raise discriminatory
barriers to the right to vote for many qualified U.S. citizens,
particularly minority and elderly citizens. Second, the Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS) already routinely cooperates with State and
local officials in the execution of their duties, including, in appropriate
cases, duties relating to elections. Third, the bill depends upon data
systems not suited for voter verification purposes.
The bill poses important civil rights problems. In 1986, Congress sought
to guard against employment discrimination by requiring that the identity
and immigration status of all employees be verified. H.R. 1428
lacks this safeguard. Some, but not all, voters may be subject to
citizenship verification under H.R. 1428 without regard to any underlying
information indicating that a person is not a citizen. The potential for
discriminatory abuse, particularly against minorities, is clear.
Furthermore, verification for citizenship, as opposed to immigration
status, is highly burdensome on local and State election officials, as well
as Federal agencies. Even if the system envisioned by the bill were
workable, voter registration would be greatly impeded because of the
administrative burden in verifying everyone's citizenship. H.R. 1428 would
render meaningless existing voter registration deadlines under State laws
and thwart the protections of the National Voter Registration Act and
Voting Rights Act.
In addition, there is already a citizenship question on the voter
application forms of all States, in most (if not all) cases carrying a
perjury penalty for false statements. Existing cooperation and assistance
furnished to State and local election officials are far more effective than
the system that would be mandated by H.R. 1428.
Finally, the system mandated by the bill will not result in accurate and
timely information. The Social Security Administration (SSA) cannot
confirm citizenship based on its records. Of its records created before
1981, 269 million reflect only unverified information on citizenship
status, and newer records are not routinely updated for changes in
citizenship status. Only about 10 percent of INS records contain Social
Security numbers, and SSA does not maintain and cannot supply Alien
Registration numbers. A forced linking of two databases, which were not
designed for the purpose of voter eligibility determinations, would result
in the denial of the right to vote for U.S. citizens.