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VOL. 37 | NO. 14 | Friday, April 05, 2013

Review finds few potential non-citizen voters

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NASHVILLE (AP) - A Davidson County Election Commission member's statement that the motor voter law had let thousands of non-residents register as voters locally hasn't held up in a state review.

At a March 24 meeting of the election commission, Steve Abernathy said there could be 3,000 to 10,000 non-citizens on the voter rolls in the county.

The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/10PBuS2) reported state Election Coordinator Mark Goins's office said a review of voter registration lists showed only 14 "potential non-citizens."

Blake Fontenay of the Tennessee Division of Elections said just one of those people had ever attempted to vote.

After Abernathy proposed reviewing the citizenship of foreign-born voters, the GOP legislative delegation from the county nominated replacements for him and the two other Republican commission members.

The review was statewide and it found that there were 78 "potential non-citizens" on the lists in 25 of Tennessee's 95 counties. Shelby County had the most with 20.

State officials said of the 78, six of them had voted at some point before last year. However, the state also said those people might prove eligible to vote if more information about them was available.

At the March local election commission meeting, Abernathy joined four other commission members in voting to rescind a plan he advanced that would have reviewed the citizenship status of all foreign-born voters who registered after March 1. Metro Nashville attorneys said such a plan could violate both the motor voter law and the 14th Amendment by creating two classes of voters and subjecting one of them to more intense scrutiny.

Abernathy isn't satisfied by the state review.

"If (Goins) pulled all the way back to 1995, I doubt that we would just have 14," said Abernathy, who contends that anyone applying for a driver's license has been allowed to register to vote, regardless of eligibility .

In a list of frequently asked questions the Division of Elections noted, "While there are individuals on this list who we suspect are non-citizens, this list also contains the names of individuals whose citizenship status could not be completely determined based on our comparison.

"Also, individuals listed may have become naturalized since their last contact with the Department of Safety," the report stated.