By James D. Agresti
February 7, 2024
In a recent trio of posts to X, Elon Musk wrote that (1) illegal immigrants “are not prevented from voting in federal elections,” (2) “you don’t need government issued ID to vote,” and (3) Democrats “are importing voters.”
To rebut those statements, the New York Times published an article by Jim Rutenberg and Kate Conger claiming that Musk is “spreading election misinformation” about “illegal voting by noncitizens” and echoing a “conspiracy theory” spread by Donald Trump.
While Musk’s words are imprecise, the gist of what he wrote is correct, and the Times is categorically wrong.
Illegal Voter Registration
In response to Musk’s first two points, the Times argues that “federal law requires identification verification from voters when they register.” The hyperlink in that sentence leads to a document by the liberal Brennan Center for Justice claiming that “new identification requirements” in a 2002 federal voting law “may severely threaten voters’ rights….”
What the Times fails to reveal is that the Brennan Center document describes the identification requirements in the law, which don’t require government-issued ID or proof of citizenship—just as Musk wrote. The document notes that even a “utility bill” or “bank statement” is enough to comply with the law. The text of the 2002 legislation and the current U.S. election code law confirm this.
Furthermore, a 2013 Supreme Court ruling supports Musk and contradicts the Times by explaining that the National Voter Registration Form “does not require documentary evidence of citizenship; rather, it requires only that an applicant aver, under penalty of perjury, that he is a citizen.”
In fact, the Court’s 2013 ruling blocked the state of Arizona from requiring “documentary proof of citizenship” to register to vote. Likewise, a 2020 appeals court ruling prohibited other states from doing the same, and the Obama administration filed a brief arguing for that outcome.
To be clear, federal law and the laws of all 50 states require people to be U.S. citizens in order to register to vote in federal elections, and federal law forbids people from falsely claiming citizenship to register to vote. Penalties for lying about this include up to five years in prison. However, enforcement mechanisms for such laws are limited, and opportunities to get around them are ample.
The situation was summarized by Barack Obama shortly before the 2016 U.S. presidential election when actress Gina Rodriguez asked him if “Dreamers” and “undocumented citizens” would be deported if they voted. Obama replied:
Not true. And the reason is, first of all, when you vote, you are a citizen yourself. And there is not a situation where the voting rolls somehow are transferred over, and people start investigating, etcetera.
And when President Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity asked the states for “detailed, publicly available voter-roll data” that could be cross-checked against other databases with information on citizenship status, states refused to turn over the data and filed a flurry of lawsuits to stop the commission. In the words of California’s Secretary of State:
While the commission is allowed to request the personal data of California voters, they cannot compel me to provide it. Let me reassure California voters: I will not provide the Commission with any personal voter data. …
Yesterday’s ruling is merely the first in a string of lawsuits challenging the Commission. Those lawsuits send a strong message—the Commission will face opposition at every step of the way from those who are fighting to protect our voting rights, our privacy, and our democratic principles.
Note that California alleged the commission asked for “personal data,” but in reality, the commission explicitly requested “publicly available voter-roll data.”
California’s deceptive refusal of the request and the ample openings for non-citizens to vote take on added significance in light of the following testimony by California Senate Leader and Democrat Kevin De Leon in 2017:
I can tell you half of my family would be eligible for deportation under [Trump’s] executive order, because if they got a false Social Security card, if they got a false identification, if they got a false driver’s license … if they got a false green card. And anyone who has family members who are undocumented knows that almost entirely everybody has secured some sort of false identification.
The Times also alleges that “instances of illegal voting by noncitizens are rare” and supports that claim with a link to PolitiFact—an outfit with a record of publishing flagrant falsehoods on illegal voting and many other issues.
Although data on violations of laws with weak enforcement mechanisms are rare, scientific surveys of non-citizens have found that roughly:
- 13% of Hispanic non-citizens admitted they were registered to vote in 2013.
- 14% of all non-citizens admitted they were registered to vote in 2012, and 9% stated “I definitely voted” in the 2012 U.S. presidential election.
- 15% of all non-citizens admitted they were registered to vote in 2008, and 8% stated “I definitely voted” in the 2008 U.S. presidential election.
Those rates are only for self-admitted actions, and database matches with voting and registration records show the actual rates are about twice as high. In 2008, the one year for which Just Facts has full data, 27% of non-citizens were registered to vote, and 16% of them actually voted.
The studies that yielded the data above have significant margins of error due to relatively small sample sizes, and there are other sources of uncertainty—some of which may produce overcounts and some undercounts. But given that the Census Bureau estimates there are about 20 million non-citizen adults living in the U.S., a million illegal votes will be cast in every federal election if only 5% of them vote.
As summarized by a 2014 paper in the scholarly journal Electoral Studies, “some non-citizens participate in U.S. elections,” and “this participation has been large enough to change meaningful election outcomes including Electoral College votes, and Congressional elections.”
Some media outlets and “fact checkers” have tried to contest those realities, but a multitude of facts from academic books and journals have shown that their arguments consist of mathematically illiterate notions, half-truths, and outright falsehoods. On top of this, one “fact checker” leveled slanderous accusations against Ph.D. scholars who conducted and vetted seminal studies on this matter.
“The Great Replacement”
The Times also asserts “Musk implied that Mr. Biden and the Democrats were being lax on immigration because ‘they are importing voters,’ an echo of the ‘great replacement’ conspiracy theory that Mr. Trump was sharing around the same time.”
The hyperlink in that sentence leads to another Times article that blames Republicans for spreading a “Great Replacement” narrative “used to justify an act of racist violence” in a mass murder of 10 people in a Buffalo supermarket during 2022.
The Times and other media outlets tar Republicans with such guilt-by-association tactics. However, the press gives itself a pass when similar atrocities are committed by people who parrot their false narratives.
The Times article doesn’t even attempt to rebut Musk’s point but simply calls it a “conspiracy.” However, multiple facts prove that what Musk wrote is true.
For example, 82% of non-citizens who said they voted in 2008 stated that they voted for Democrat Barack Obama, while only 18% said they voted for Republican John McCain.
Citing figures that would dwarf the number of non-citizens who vote illegally, Eliseo Medina, a former executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union, stated in a 2009 speech that:
- the “progressive community” can “expand and solidify the progressive coalition for the future” by putting “12 million” unauthorized immigrants “on the path to citizenship and eventually voting.”
- turning illegal immigrants into citizens will create a progressive “governing coalition for the long term, not just for an election cycle.”
The lopsided votes of non-citizens for Democrats are consistent with the promises and actions of Democrat politicians to give free healthcare, amnesty, and citizenship to people who immigrate to the United States, illegally or legally. The electoral implications of this are further highlighted by facts like these:
- A nationally representative bilingual poll of 784 immigrant Latinos conducted by Pew Research in 2011 found that 81% said they would prefer “a bigger government providing more services,” and 12% said they would prefer “a smaller government with fewer services.” In stark contrast, 41% of the general U.S. population said they would prefer a bigger government, and 48% said they want a smaller one.
- A 2012 poll of 2,900 immigrants who were U.S. citizens found that 62% identified as Democrats, 25% as Republicans, and 13% as Independents.
- A nationally representative bilingual poll of 800 Hispanic adults conducted by McLaughlin & Associates in 2013 found that 59% were born outside the U.S., 53% considered themselves to be Democrats, 12% considered themselves to be Republicans, and 29% considered themselves to be independents or another party.
The fact that illegal immigration, amnesty, and legal immigration help the political prospects of Democrats is incontestable, not a conspiracy.
Beyond attacking Musk for posting genuine facts about illegal voting by non-citizens, the Times article complains that “X’s fact checkers are long gone” and that the previous “complaint line between the [Biden] campaign and the platform is dead.”
The Times bemoans those developments while failing to report that pre-Musk Twitter censored genuine facts and promoted demonstrable falsehoods about Russiagate, Hunter Biden’s laptop, Covid-19, and more.
In short, the New York Times is falsely accusing Elon Musk of the very thing that the Times and the previous owners of Twitter are guilty of—spreading misinformation.