OLYMPIA – Washington can’t use immigrant registration records from the U.S. Homeland Security Department to verify names on its voter rolls, state elections officials said Tuesday.
The reason: The state doesn’t have a system that requires proof of legal residency before issuing a driver’s license, which is needed to use the federal system.
Secretary of State Sam Reed requested access to the federal system in July to check the state’s voter rolls for noncitizens. But to use the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program, which is designed to determine whether a person qualifies for some social and medical programs, the state would need to issue some sort of identification card that checks for legal immigration status.
The state doesn’t check for legal residency when issuing driver’s licenses or official ID cards.
Several proposals to change that have failed in recent legislative sessions.
Reed said the state is dropping the effort for the 2012 election, and he urged the Legislature to require applicants for a driver’s license or ID card to show proof of legal residency.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington criticized the plan and met with state elections officials this summer urging them to drop it.
Shankar Narayan of the ACLU said Tuesday that Reed made the right decision to cancel efforts to try finding illegal immigrants on the voter rolls.
“It’s a solution in search of a problem,” Narayan said. “I’m not aware of anyone convicted of voting as a noncitizen in Washington.”