Trib editorial: 100,000-plus noncitizen Pa. voters? Withheld records hold answer
The difficulty of nailing down genuine facts and valid statistics fuels controversies over electoral integrity. And when public officials withhold relevant data that could clear things up — as the Pennsylvania Department of State is doing regarding allegations that 100,000-plus noncitizens have registered to vote in the commonwealth — it's even harder to evaluate claims of improprieties.
The Associated Press reports state officials admit that a glitch was present when the electronic driver's-license system was implemented in the late 1990s. That allowed noncitizens to register inadvertently through late last year, when it finally was fixed. Last fall, state officials said noncitizens might have illegally cast 544 ballots out of 93 million — one in 172,000 — in 35 elections from 2000 to 2017.
In December, a Philadelphia elections official told a legislative committee that a State comparison of voter and driver's-license records indicated more than 100,000 noncitizens had registered. That prompted the conservative Public Interest Legal Foundation to demand access to relevant records; State refused. Now, PILF has filed a federal lawsuit seeking access.
The department isn't commenting on that litigation. But it denies the 100,000 figure is valid — yet won't say just how many noncitizens have registered. Especially with the 18th Congressional District special election at hand, that number should be clear — and would be, were relevant records public. The sooner this controversy's cleared up, the better for electoral integrity — and the public's trust therein.