Nineteen foreigners living in the United States voted illegally in the 2016 election, according to indictments announced Friday by the Justice Department, which said the allegations are part of an ongoing voter fraud investigation.
The charges, filed this month in the US District Court in North Carolina, show a range of circumstances, including defendants allegedly falsely claiming citizenship in order to register to vote, while others are said to have created fake identities or lied in the process of becoming a naturalized a citizen.
President Donald Trump has claimed millions of people illegally voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, giving her a greater slice of the popular vote, but his claims lack any evidence.
Examples of voter fraud are exceedingly rare.
Trump’s “election integrity” commission, which disbanded amid legal woes this year, promoted many claims of widespread fraudulent voting. But a member of the commission last month released a trove of records and declared that the White House’s claims about wide-scale fraud are “false.”
In the cases announced Friday, the suspects are between 35 and 71 years old, coming to the US from Mexico, Nigeria, El Salvador, Haiti, Germany, and other countries.
Court papers don’t attribute motives to the suspects, nor do they identify which party or candidate suspects supported.
One set of allegations says a man “knowing he was not a United States citizen, did knowingly vote in an election held in part for the purpose of electing a candidate for the office of President, Vice President, and member of the House of Representatives.” Another charging document accuses a woman of “knowingly make a false statement and claiming that she was a citizen of the United States in order to register to vote.”
They are charged with violating federal laws that ban making “any false statement or claim that he is a citizen of the United States in order to register to vote,” and stating it is “unlawful for any alien to vote in any election.”
The defendants face penalties of ranging from one year to 26 years in prison, and fines up to $350,000, according to the Justice Department.
The charges were filed by Robert Higdon Jr, US Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, who said a 20th defendant was charged with aiding and abetting a fellow defendant in falsely claiming US citizenship in order to register to vote.
The Justice Department says the cases are being investigated by the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF), led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and assisted by Enforcement Removal Operations and the Department of State.
In 2017, the Justice Department told state officials to submit a trove of records to show they had practices to keep illegal voters off the rolls. Federal officials have declined to explain whether it will take further steps that pressure states to reform their practices.