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VICTOR JOECKS: Canadian citizen: DMV registered me to vote

A Canadian citizen received something unexpected after visiting the Nevada DMV — a voter registration card with her name on it.

Helena Schneider is a Canadian citizen, who’s lived in the United States since 1969. Last month, she visited the DMV to renew her driver’s license. She noticed a section on the form related to voter registration. “I left it blank,” she said.

Imagine her surprise when she received a voter registration card in the mail. It had her name and her address. It told her which local races she could now vote in. If she stayed registered, she would receive a ballot in the mail, thanks to a law change made by Nevada Democrats.

“I can’t believe that they did that, and I’m wondering, ‘How many other people?’ ” she said.

Schneider showed me her unexpired Canadian passport. It lists her nationality as Canadian. She showed me a card documenting that she is a resident alien in the United States. I also saw her voter registration card and independently confirmed she was on the Clark County voter rolls.

Schneider’s experience highlights a problem with automatic voter registration, which voters approved in 2018. Anyone getting a driver’s license or identification card is automatically registered to vote unless they decline in writing. There’s a spot on the form that asks if the person is a U.S. citizen. Checking “no” on that box should also prevent someone from being registered to vote.

Tens of thousands of non-citizens have Nevada driver’s licenses and driver’s authorization cards. An honest mistake — and who hasn’t made a mistake on a form like this — can lead to a non-citizen being registered to vote. A dishonest person could simply check the “yes” box.

Kevin Malone, a spokesman for the Nevada DMV, said Schneider’s voter registration was caused by human error. He said that Schneider did check “no” on the citizenship question. An inexperienced technician, he claimed, incorrectly entered the answer as “yes.”

“Additionally, the technician failed to ask for immigration documents as required when a customer indicates they were born outside the U.S.,” he wrote in an email.

He then tried to blame the victim. DMV customers receive a printout to review before completing their transaction.

“The U.S. citizen question is one of the data elements the customer is required to verify,” he wrote. “Customers sign this form to affirm it was reviewed and correct.”

Please. Everyone scans that form quickly, desperate to leave the DMV.

To be fair, everyone makes mistakes. Just ask my copy editors about my spelling. An election system should have redundancies in place to catch mistakes and stop the dishonest. Nevada’s doesn’t.

Malone said that the DMV is just a “pass-through agency” and doesn’t verify voter eligibility. “The ultimate responsibility to verify whether a voter registration is valid is the county elections official,” he wrote.

But Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin wrote in an email, “We are legally required to accept voter registrations that originate from the DMV.”

This doesn’t prove widespread fraud. It highlights a vulnerability. No one knows how big of a problem non-citizens being registered to vote at the DMV is, because election officials won’t look into it. Willful ignorance is not an election security strategy.

“I wouldn’t have voted for Trump if I could have, but he’s the one who kept saying there’s fraud in there,” Schneider said. “Well, this proves it to me.”

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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