State: No access to immigration database for voting checks

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SEATTLE — Washington state won’t be able to access a federal database of legal immigrants to examine voting eligibility, The Secretary of State’s office announced Tuesday.

Election officials said because the state doesn’t require proof of legal status during the process of obtaining a driver’s license, there is missing information that would be needed to access Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program.

The determination by election officials prompted Secretary of State Sam Reed to urge lawmakers to require proof of legal U.S. residency during the process to obtain a driver’s license — a thorny issue that has been debated in Olympia in the past few years.

“He thinks that’s reasonable,” said Secretary of State spokesman Dave Ammons. “It’s not a bizarre concept when 48 other states do it.

Washington and New Mexico are the only two states that don’t require a Social Security number during a license application. Currently, if a person doesn’t have a Social Security number, the state requires proof of residency in the state through various other documents.

The SAVE database houses information on legal immigrants such as green card holders, refugees and naturalized citizens. The database can be used to determine an immigrant’s access to certain services. Reed wanted to access the program as one tool to look for immigrants who may have been registered to vote but shouldn’t have.

Other states, such as Florida, have gained access, prompting a pushback by advocacy groups who see the move as voter purging.

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