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Non-U.S. citizens are voting in Michigan | News

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Non-U.S. citizens are voting in Michigan

GRANDVILLE, Mich. (WZZM) -- A 13 On Your Side investigation reveals non-citizens are voting despite efforts by the state to stop them.

Grandville city clerk Mary Meines has been combing through November's voter registration, but she has been unable to check one important thing -- whether the registered voters are U.S. citizens.

WZZM 13's Sarah Barwacz interviewed Meines about her efforts to check voters' citizenship.

"When people come to vote, do you have any way to check if they are a U.S. citizen?" asked Sarah.

"No, we do not," answered Meines.  "It's their honesty and signature as to whether they are." 

Area clerks tell 13 On Your Side about a registration loophole allowing non-U.S. citizens to vote. 

"I just had someone the other day who is not a U.S. citizen but was on the voter registry," says Kentwood city clerk Dan Kusunic.

The loophole comes down to identification. Anyone -- even someone who is not a citizen -- can get a state-issued ID, and in Michigan it's all you need to vote. 

When a person goes to vote at his or her local precinct, that person must either show a state-issued ID or sign an affidavit claiming they are a U.S. citizen. But it turns out the affidavit is never even checked.

"People who are not eligible need to make sure they are not on a qualified voter file," says Ruth Johnson, Michigan's Secretary of State.

Johnson confirmed illegal voting is a statewide issue.  After investigating just 20% of the people on Michigan's voter registry, her staff found nearly 1,000 illegally registered voters.  "You extrapolate that, you'll have more than four-thousand non citizens registered to vote," says Johnson.

The Secretary of State says non-citizens often have language barriers and don't understand they aren't allowed to vote.  they may not even realize they are breaking the law by voting.

"They now think have the opportunity to vote, but it's a felony and they can be deported," Johnson says.

Under Johnson's new office policy, non citizens are not asked to register. But many others are still renewing their ID and registration in the mail.  Johnson says the only way to stop it is to have the federal government check the state's registry or allow her office access to the information. 

"This is the most frustrating part of this," says Johnson.  "Every entity at the federal government we've contacted refused to help us, and they're the only entity that has the information." 

To try and solve the problem 13 On Your Side contacted the Department of Homeland Security, which provided a statement: "States that are able to provide the proper identification and documentation for individuals registered to vote may access the SAVE program to verify their citizenship."

The SAVE program, or Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, allows federal, state and local agencies to verify a person's immigration status.

The DHS statement implies the Secretary of State's office has not sent in all the proper paperwork. A spokesperson for the Secretary of State says the DHS allegation not true.