Secretary of State Sam Reed’s elections staffers have finally been promised access to a federal immigration database that they asked Homeland Security for but were rebuffed – in 2005 and 2006. But now, whether Washington has the tools to actually use the data remains a big question at a time the question of citizenship checks is becoming a campaign issue in the election of Reed’s successor. Kathleen Drew, an Olympia Democrat running in the seven-person field, has criticized Reed for not funding a print-edition of his primary voter guide. Last week she criticized his request to get access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (or SAVE) program’s database. The system is typically used to verify immigration status for the purposes of determining eligibility for public-paid benefits.
In a news release, Drew said Reed should be paying for the voter guide “rather than using scarce resources to chase nonexistent fraud” by immigrants on voter rolls. It’s worth noting that Drew is not alone in suggesting voting by noncitizens is a red herring. Most other candidates in the race, including Reed’s Republican friend Kim Wyman, also think voter fraud by immigrants is not a problem in Washington.
I put in queries about the new data source to the state elections office late Friday. After a follow-up email today, I got answers about what is going on from state elections co-director Shane Hamlin. “There is no chance we will use screen the federal data against the voter rolls before the Primary [Aug. 7], and very little chance we will do so before the General Election [Nov. 6] ,” Hamlin wrote back. “It’s just too early to tell, given that we a number of critical questions to research.” Hamlin added that the state’s requests for the database go back to 2005 and 2006 and Homeland Security rejected them.