Washington election officials have determined that the state will be
unable to use a federal Homeland Security database of legal immigrants to check
voting eligibility.

In July, Secretary of State Sam Reed requested access to data on over 100 million
immigrants as a further way of reviewing the accuracy of the state’s voter
registration rolls. But further research and inquiry made it clear that access
is possible only if a state has “alien registration” numbers, which typically
accompany immigration documents provided as proof of legal presence during the
licensing process in other states.

Washington does not require proof of legal presence before a driver’s license is issued,
and so there is no way to use the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements
(SAVE) program, said Shane Hamlin, state elections co-director. SAVE, designed
to check eligibility for various social and health programs, includes both
naturalized citizens, who are entitled to vote, and other legal immigrants who
are not allowed to vote, such as people here on work or student visas and on
green-card status. The database does not list illegal aliens.

Reed expressed disappointment that the state does not have the information required
to use the SAVE program, and urged the 2013 Legislature to approve a bill to
require driver’s license/ID card applicants to show proof of legal presence, and
to retain the alien registration number provided.  That way, the state could
compare information in the statewide Voter Registration Database with
information on immigrants, he said.

The Legislature has taken up the issue in recent years, but has never passed a
bill.  Only Washington and New Mexico do not have such a requirement.