In Our View: Three Lenient States
It’s time for Washington to join 47 states with strict driver’s license requirements
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Are illegal immigrants voting in Washington state? They could be. And that’s a strong enough answer for us to once again call for Washington to do the right thing, join 47 other states and require proof of citizenship or legal residency to obtain a driver’s license.
The 47 states with such a requirement include Oregon, where Gov. Ted Kulongoski in 2008 ordered state officials to stop granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. The three unreasonably lenient states are Washington, New Mexico and Utah. (In Utah, an illegal immigrant may obtain a driver’s license but cannot use it as a form of identification — to board an airplane, get a job or buy alcohol, for example.)
An Associated Press story published in Saturday’s Columbian noted that applications for driver’s licenses in these three states have surged this year, especially since Arizona passed its controversial immigration law that remains in legal dispute. The natural correlation is that those surges increase the chances for illegal immigrants voting.
In a follow-up story on Tuesday by The Columbian’s Stephanie Rice, Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey said it’s possible residents who are not U.S. citizens are voting in our state, perhaps even in Tuesday’s primary. To do so would be illegal, because state law requires voter registration applicants to swear they are citizens of the United States. Lying about that matter is a Class C felony, which Kimsey says is enough to dissuade illegal immigrants from voting: “If you are a noncitizen do you really want to get your name on a list (of registered voters)?” Kimsey asked.
David Ammons, spokesman for the Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed, added: “The last thing (illegal immigrants) are going to do is vote and get hooked up with a government agency. If you are undocumented, you just aren’t going to raise your head. If you become naturalized, then voting is one of the things you are happy to do.” These, though, are only presumptions. The freedom to vote (and the privilege of driving) should not be granted based on presumptions.
Requiring legal residency for a driver’s license has been pushed in the Legislature more than once, most recently by state Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield. But the proposal keeps getting shot down by the majority Democrats, supported by Gov. Chris Gregoire. Their argument is based on three points, all weak in our view, as we editorialized last year.
First, it’s better to have illegal immigrants pass a driving test required for a driver’s license. But if public safety is the priority, how safe is it for illegal immigrants to use a driver’s license as a form of ID, perhaps even a person from some anti-American country, to board an airplane? Second, Democrats argue that it’s more humanitarian to provide illegal immigrants with driver’s licenses, just as we do public medical services. Our response: Driving is a privilege, while providing health care promotes public health overall. Third, driver’s license personnel should not be forced to work as immigration agents. Our rebuttal: Why not? Public school registrars are required to determine residency within a school district. Why can’t driver’s license officials do the same thing?
Here’s a related problem described by Brian Zimmer, president of the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License, based in Washington, D.C.: “Washington state and New Mexico have been magnet states for the fraudulent document brokers, human traffickers and alien smugglers for years.”
Washingtonians might never be able to determine exactly how many illegal immigrants are voting in our state. But if the state stopped issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, the uncertainty would virtually vanish.