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New York bill does not automatically register non U.S. citizens to vote

January 14, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: New York Senate just passed a bill that would “automatically register illegal immigrants to vote.”

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The legislation does not change who is eligible to vote, and it clearly states that people who are not U.S. citizens should not be registered.

THE FACTS: The New York Senate recently passed legislation that would automatically register people to vote when they submit applications to state agencies, like the Department of Motor Vehicles. The passage has led to a number of stories and social media posts claiming the bill “would automatically register illegal immigrants to vote.”

“That claim is 100 percent false,” State Sen. Michael Gianaris, sponsor of the bill, confirmed to The Associated Press in a phone call.

According to the legislation, eligible voters will submit an application to the agency like the Department of Health or the Department of Motor Vehicles, and that agency will transmit the application to the state board of elections. In New York state, in order to register and vote that person must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old on election day, and must be a New York resident a minimum of 30 days before the election.

The bill clearly states that no agency “shall transmit to the state board of elections any application for registration for a person that is, by virtue of data collected by the agency ... demonstrably ineligible to register or pre-register to vote by reason of age or not being a citizen of the United States.”

The bill also states that the application must include a box to indicate whether they are a citizen of the U.S. Non-citizens who register or pre-register to vote may be subject to criminal penalties, the legislation states.

New York lawmakers voted last year to authorize driver’s licenses for immigrants who are living in the country illegally. A mistake in the automatic voter registration legislation would have inadvertently added them to the voting rolls, despite the fact that it is not legal for them to vote. The AP reported that lawmakers noticed the mistake in the session’s final days last year. The revised bill includes language that prohibits state agencies from sending applications to the state board of elections from people who are ineligible to vote.

Gianaris said what prompted him to draft the bill was the lack of voter participation in New York. “New York is among the worst states in the nation for voter participation,” he said. “There are some who are voter eligible but not enrolled, this will help almost 2 million people to gain access to the democratic process.”

VineSight, a technology company that tracks misinformation online, highlighted false posts around the legislation to The Associated Press.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536