Michigan’s Secretary of State is joining a growing trend among state elections officials: Declare that thousands of non-citizens are registered to vote and then use those allegations to justify efforts that confuse, intimidate, and in some cases purge eligible voters on the eve of the election. But similar claims about ineligible voters in Florida and Colorado were debunked within a matter of weeks after being publicly disclosed. So why is Sec. Ruth Johnson jumping on the bandwagon, saying there are 4,000 non-citizens registered to vote? Is there something different about Michigan? Almost certainly not. To quickly recap: In Florida it was initially asserted that as many as 180,000 potential non-citizens were registered to vote. Claims of registered non-citizens in Colorado were smaller, but still in the thousands — over 11,000. But as time went by, these lists decreased in size. In Florida, 180,000 morphed into 2,600 and later into 198, while in the Centennial state 11,000 shrunk to 3,900 and then to 141. The final numbers represent thousandths of a percent of all registered voters in each state. But Michigan is a different state. Perhaps Johnson has learned from these fiascos and developed a more reliable and efficient system for identifying the extremely small percentage of non-citizens who may be on the rolls? Unfortunately, no.
The methodology Johnson used to obtain her numbers appears — at first blush — distinctly similar to that employed in Florida and Colorado. The Michigan Department of State, according to news reports, gleaned a list of 963 potential registered non-citizens by comparing immigration data captured from state drivers’ license and ID card applications to a list of registered voters. This is essentially the same approach that produced wildly inaccurate lists, shown to include hundreds of eligible citizens, in Florida and Colorado.
But Johnson went one step further, into arguably unknown territory, to arrive at the flimsy allegation that 4,000 non-citizens are registered to vote in Michigan. According to Johnson’s office, using census estimates that 305,000 noncitizens live in Michigan, it extrapolated that 5,064 of those noncitizens could be registered to vote, and “then lowered its estimate to 4,000 to account for children.” Unsurprisingly, the theory underlying these “extrapolated” and “estimated” numbers remains unexplained. To put it plainly, the use of flawed list-matching compounded by baseless estimation methods bodes poorly for the accuracy of the claims.