Under U.S. regulations, only U.S. citizens are allowed to vote and voter registration is legally limited only to those who are either born in the U.S. or naturalized.
As part of the citizenship process to become a U.S. citizen, residents who are applying for naturalization must confirm that they never registered to vote, in order to meet the good moral character (GMC) requirement for citizenship.
Through the years, some residents have been denied U.S. citizenship because their names appeared on the voter registration rolls, however, in most cases, residents never intentionally registered and are wholly unaware that they have been inadvertently registered and only find out that they are included on the list of registered voters once the USCIS adjudicating officer informs them that they are ineligible to obtain U.S. citizenship.
The most common cause of inadvertent voter registration is the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, (more commonly referred to as the Motor Voter law), which requires states to provide eligible voters with the opportunity to register to vote when applying for a driver’s license or state ID. Checking off the wrong box or having a driver’s license employee enter the wrong information in the motor vehicle computer is all it takes to register an individual who may not even know that has happened.
The USCIS now recognizes this situation and has provided a clarification about the agency’s policy on the effect of Voter Registration on Naturalization eligibility.
Under the new policy, individuals who unknowingly or unwilfully registers to vote will no longer be penalized and the USCIS will not consider a resident to have unlawfully registered to vote if he or she did not personally complete or sign the voter registration section (including electronic signature, if applicable) in the relevant motor vehicle or state benefit application.
You can read the new Naturalization Eligibility and Voter Registration by visiting www.Immigratetoday.com and clicking on the Immigration Newsletter link in the upper left-hand corner or by visiting enewsletter site at: www.americanimmigrationcentral.com
** Contributions to this Column are made by Attorney Caroly Pedersen, Esq. of the American Immigration Law Center