New York’s Driver’s License Law Could Give Illegal Immigrants the Ability to Vote

By Mimi Nguyen Ly

A newly-introduced law in New York that allows illegal immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses in the state, commonly referred to as the Green Light Bill, could enable the same potential license holders to fraudulently register to vote.

The New York Post reported that lawmakers in the state, including one of the bill’s own sponsors, said that the newly-enacted Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act of 2019 (S.1747B), also known as the “Green Light Bill,” will effectively allow illegal immigrants to vote in elections.

Even one of the bill’s sponsors, Luis Sepúlveda, said the bill could “theoretically” enable illegal immigrants to commit voter fraud.

“Theoretically, [the illegal immigrants] could have the ability to vote,” he said while arguing for the bill during a hearing on June 17, the Post reported.

The bill takes effect in about 180 days, meaning illegal immigrants can begin applying for driver licenses in December.

State Sen. Republican ­Minority Leader John Flanagan expressed concern about the likelihood of more voter fraud, saying that New York state requires just a driver’s license to enroll to vote.

“Since New York does not have voter-identification laws like the majority of other states do, this bill increases the potential for voter fraud,” he said on June 18, according to the news outlet. “This means that New York will soon have the most radical, open-ended law in the entire nation.”

720,000 Illegal Immigrants

According to the Pew Research Center, an estimated that there were 750,000 illegal immigrants in New York state in 2012.

Another state senator said he believes the new Green Light law will lead to more illegal immigration.

“We are treating the people who have broken our law, who are criminals, [like law-abiding citizens]. This legislation will lead to more illegal immigration,” Republican state Sen. Thomas O’Mara said as he voted against the law, according to the Post.

According to the Board of Elections (BOE), if a person is found to have committed fraud on the voter form, they could face fines of up to $5,000 and four years in jail, and possible deportation. The BOE’s spokesman, John Conklin, told the Post about the what’s required to register to vote—just a driver’s license number.

“If you have a driver’s license number, you basically stop there,” Conklin told the outlet, adding that while they are required to check a box to say they are eligible to vote in the United States, “it’s ­basically an honor system.”

According to the Post, New York State’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) said it makes the registration forms available to people to apply to vote, and then sends those forms to the BOE, but does not get involved in vetting the voter applications.

Clerk Refuses to Grant Licenses to Illegals

One DMV agent of the Department of Motor Vehicles, Michael Kearns, indicated that he “will not be granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants” soon after the Green Light bill was signed into law, saying that he sees it as being in conflict with federal law.

Kearns had suggested to news station WIVB that the bill may violate the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, a federal law signed by then-president Ronald Reagan, which made it illegal to knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

A recent Siena poll showed that 53 percent of voters statewide opposed the Green Light law, while 41 percent support it.

Twelve states and the District of Columbia already grant drivers licenses to illegal immigrants, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

California Registered 1,500 Ineligible Voters: Lawmakers

California enacted the law in 2013. The state is the home to the largest number of illegal immigrants in the country. More than 1 million illegal immigrants have received driver’s licenses there since the law took effect in 2015, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In early February, four Republican lawmakers sent a letter to the state’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee requesting an audit of the department’s Motor Voter program.

“The Motor Voter program has had serious and concerning problems since its rollout in April 2018,” the letter said. “The Department has acknowledged making 105,000 registration errors, including mishandling voter registration information for 23,000 drivers and double-registering as many as 77,000 others.”

“Included in this are 1,500 ineligible voters registered by the DMV, and over 500 Californians may not have been able to vote in this past election because the DMV did not send their information to the Secretary of State’s office in time,” continued the letter.

Ivan Pentchoukov and Zach Li contributed to this report.