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- In 2018, Nevada voters approved the establishment of an automatic voter registration system that allows eligible people to register to vote when applying for or renewing a driver’s license at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
At the DMV, state officials take steps to allow only U.S. citizens to complete voter registration paperwork. People using immigration paperwork to obtain a driver’s license can’t proceed with automatic voter registration.
There is no evidence of widespread voting by noncitizens in the 2020 presidential election that would have changed the election’s outcome.
A Nevada Republican has wrongly suggested that the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles is swelling the voter rolls with immigrants who are in the country illegally.
The claim was floated on Aug. 9 during a podcast by Steve Bannon, a one-time adviser to former President Donald Trump. Bannon said "mass illegal immigration" has created a "problem with voting." He invited Jim Marchant, the Republican candidate for Nevada secretary of state, to discuss the "illegal alien invasion."
Marchant then suggested that the Nevada secretary of state and officials at the Department of Motor Vehicles allow people who are in the country illegally to join the voter rolls.
"The illegal aliens that are coming in are a huge issue when it comes to voting," Marchant said during the podcast. "Here in Nevada, the DMV registers everybody, and so that means illegals. They don’t check. They are relying on the secretary of state to do the checking and either kick them off the voter rolls or not, which they are not doing."
But that’s not true. The Nevada DMV takes several steps to prevent noncitizens from registering to vote.
Marchant, a former Nevada state assemblyman, said during the podcast that if he’s elected, he will ensure only U.S. citizens register to vote. But he didn’t explain how he would accomplish that and whether his steps would differ from the ones government officials already take.
Marchant will face Democrat Cisco Aguilar, a lawyer and former Nevada Athletic Commission appointee, in a November race to replace current Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, who is term-limited.
Marchant leads a national coalition of candidates running on the falsehood that the 2020 presidential election was stolen by President Joe Biden. Marchant wants to eliminate voting by mail except for limited exceptions, such as military personnel.
Michael Kagan, director of an immigration law clinic at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said there is no evidence of widespread voting by noncitizens.
"Although isolated and random violations happen with voting, including with citizens, I am not aware of any evidence that undocumented immigrants are registering to vote or trying to vote systematically or in any numbers," Kagan said.
In 2018, Nevada voters approved a ballot initiative establishing a system to automatically register "eligible persons" to vote when they apply for or renew driver’s licenses at the DMV. "Eligible persons" must be U.S. citizens. Individuals also can decline to register.
Nevada launched automatic voter registration in 2020, a system used by about two dozen states.
Nevada DMV spokesperson James DeHaven said that prospective voters must first complete an application that requires them to disclose their citizenship status. Applicants sign the form, which says that any misstatement of facts is criminal, potentially a felony.
Customers are not processed for voter registration if:
They say they are not U.S. citizens;
They say they were born outside the U.S.;
They present immigration documents as proof of identity;
They are applying for a driver authorization card, which is for noncitizens.
DMV staff members are required to explain the voter registration process in detail to each customer.
The DMV does not register people to vote; it passes their registration information to election officials. And the DMV is not the only place people can fill out a voter registration form — they can also apply at county offices, through the mail or online.
Marchant did not respond to emails seeking evidence for his claim. But his statement echoes those Trump and his allies made in 2020, after the former president lost Nevada by about 34,000 votes. Trump tweeted in December 2020 that "thousands of noncitizens" had voted in Nevada.
That same month, a few former Republican officials sued Secretary of State Cegavske, alleging that she had failed to keep noncitizens off the voter rolls. The case was filed by former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who is now running for U.S. Senate; it was withdrawn a few months later.
The lawsuit pointed to anecdotal evidence about a few noncitizens who either voted or were allegedly on the voter rolls over the past decade.
Laxalt’s dropped lawsuit said an analysis showed "many noncitizens may have voted in the recently concluded 2020 election." That was a reference to an allegation in a separate lawsuit filed on behalf of electors for Trump.
In the lawsuit filed on behalf of Trump electors, Republicans compared the DMV files with voter registration records and said they found about 4,000 matches correlating with noncitizens who voted illegally. That lawsuit included multiple allegations of voter fraud, but the courts said the allegations were not credible and dismissed the case.
The state DMV told the Nevada Independent that the residents could have become citizens and not updated their driver’s license records.
Cegavske investigated the allegation about 4,000 noncitizens voting in the 2020 election and released her findings in April 2021. She, too, found people on the voter rolls who registered with immigration paperwork; however, she said that thousands of immigrants become citizens each year.
Cegavske concluded that without specific evidence to identify people who were foreign nationals when they voted, there was nothing further to investigate.
PolitiFact has found anecdotal evidence of noncitizens on the voter rolls in multiple states, but the incidents are rare and would not tilt a statewide election’s outcome. Noncitizens who vote face high risks: They may be deported or incarcerated, or they may undermine their efforts to apply for naturalization.
Marchant said, "Here in Nevada, the DMV registers everybody (to vote) and so that means illegals. They don’t check."
His comments imply that state officials routinely allow immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally to register to vote. He provided no evidence for his claim.
The DMV takes steps to allow only eligible citizens to fill out voter registration paperwork, which includes completing a form declaring citizenship status. Applicants who present immigration documents are not processed for voter registration.
We rate this statement False.
PolitiFact researcher Caryn Baird contributed research for this article.
Steve Bannon’s War Room, Jim Marchant On Super Highway For Illegals And Barrage of Executive Orders To Swing 2022 Elections, Aug. 9, 2022
National Conference of State Legislatures, Automatic voter registration, June 23, 2022
Nevada Secretary of State, Press release, April 19, 2017
Nevada Secretary of State, Press release, April 18, 2014
Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, Application for driving privileges or ID card, Revised June 2021
U.S. Code, Voting by aliens, Amended Oct. 30, 2000
Nevada Independent, Secretary of State: No evidence of 'wide-spread fraud' in Nevada’s 2020 election, Dec. 18, 2020
Nevada Independent, Laxalt files new lawsuit challenging Nevada's alleged inability to keep noncitizens off of voter rolls, Dec. 31, 2020
Las Vegas Review Journal, Nevada election lawsuit against GOP official dropped, May 11, 2021
8News Now, President Trump tweet claims ‘thousands of noncitizens voted in Nevada,’ Dec. 17, 2020
Las Vegas Review Journal, Nevada election cops fighting fraud, 2016
Nevada First Judicial District and Supreme Court, Law vs Whitmer, 2020
USA Today, Fact check: Voter fraud claims in Nevada based on failed lawsuit, Feb. 5, 2021
PolitiFact, ICE proposes ID cards for immigrants at border, but not for access to benefits, Aug. 5, 2022
PolitiFact, Conservative group distorts voter registration section in Senate Democrats’ bill, Oct. 21, 2021
Email interview, Jennifer Russell, Nevada Secretary of State spokesperson, Aug. 31, 2022
Email interview, Trisha Young, U.S. Attorney spokesperson in Nevada, Sept. 7, 2022
Email interview, James DeHaven, Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles spokesperson, Sept. 2, 2022
Email interview, Michael Kagan, law professor and director of an immigration law clinic at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, Aug. 31, 2022
Email interview, Dan Kulin, Clark County spokesperson, Sept. 6, 2022
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