Massachusetts Annual Census Finds Noncitizens on Voter Rolls

Massachusetts Annual Census Finds Noncitizens on Voter Rolls
A voter fills out a ballot for the midterm election at Boston City Hall in Boston, Mass., on Nov. 8, 2022. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)
Steven Kovac

A citizenship question included in the state-mandated annual census of all Massachusetts residents has proved to be an effective tool in cleaning the voter rolls of ineligible registrants.

From the city of Boston to the smallest towns in the commonwealth, once a year, local officials are required by law to compile a resident listing (sometimes known as a street listing) of who lives where within their community.

Boston conducts its census by mail or online. The survey form requires the full address, address history from the previous year if different from the current location, full name, birth date, occupation, veteran status, citizenship status, and voting registration status for every member of the household age 17 and older.

U.S. Census forms do not have a citizenship question.

The Boston form warns that a registered voter who fails to reply or does not respond to all questions will have his or her registration status changed to inactive until they comply.

Massachusetts law mandates this data be integrated with the locality’s voter roll maintenance procedures.

Ineligible Voters Are Being Caught

According to a study by the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), the Massachusetts practice has produced results in detecting and removing noncitizens from voter rolls.

“Documents disclosed by Boston to PILF typically show the local census system played a role in triggering the removal for non-citizenship. Some documents also show a pattern of registration being offered to foreign nationals in DMV offices,” the study said, referring to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

One noncitizen, identified in the study only by the first name Fred, was removed from the Boston voter roll after he told city officials that “the registry of Motor Vehicle added me to vote, but I am a greencard holder and not a citizen.”

Fred had been registered for two years but never voted.

Another noncitizen named Sam stated to Boston officials in 2016, “I, Sam [last name redacted], am writing to unregister to vote. I am an immigrant and accidentally registered to vote when applying for my Massachusetts identification. I mistakenly registered because I did not realize that by doing so, I was claiming to be a U.S. citizen, which I am not. Had I understood this, I would not have registered.”

A noncitizen named Paul told Boston officials that he was registered through the DMV. He had been on the rolls for four years and is recorded as voting.

The above cases were included in documents obtained by PILF from the City of Boston.

A 2024 data set provided to PILF by Boston officials showed that 70 voter registrations have been recently canceled for being noncitizens, 22 of which are known to have voted. One noncitizen was found to have remained on the voter rolls for 24 years.

During 2021 and 2022, roughly 18 percent of Boston registrants were mailed confirmation notices before being reclassified as inactive. In the same period, 13 percent of Boston registrants were dropped from the city’s voter rolls for having moved, died, or for prolonged voting inactivity. These instances evidence the benefit of the city’s annual census data being shared with the Boston Department of Elections.

PILF analysts stated that a significant flaw in the Massachusetts system is the two years that it normally takes from the time a noncitizen voter registration problem is discovered until resolution. By that time, some ineligible noncitizens manage to vote.

DMVs Major Source of Problem

According to PILF, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, commonly referred to as the “Motor Voter” law, enabled states to register people to vote when they visit their Department of Motor Vehicles offices.

Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia automatically register people who are applying for driver’s license or identification cards, offering no opportunity for an applicant to decline being registered. This practice “exacerbates” the problem of noncitizens getting on voter rolls and, in some cases, illegally voting, the PILF report said.

Some states leave it up to the DMV customer to opt out of being registered to vote.

“There is no doubt that foreigners are getting registered to vote and casting ballots,” PILF President J. Christian Adams said in a statement accompanying the report. “The Massachusetts census system offers a lesson on the use of diverse data to better inform voter list maintenance.”

The Public Interest Legal Foundation is a not-for-profit public interest law firm dedicated to election integrity.

Steven Kovac reports for The Epoch Times from Michigan. He is a general news reporter who has covered topics related to rising consumer prices to election security issues. He can be reached at [email protected]