Do New Chicago City ID Cards Allow Undocumented Immigrants to Vote?
A text-based viral status update recycles an old, false claim about Chicago’s CityKey identification cards giving its recipients the ability to vote in state and federal elections.
On January 19 2019, a Facebook user shared a text-based status update (archived here), claiming that Chicago’s “City ID Cards” enables undocumented immigrants to legally vote in state and federal elections:
Chicago now has City ID Cards which allow illegal immigrants to vote in local, state & federal elections
(which is illegal)
So, to be clear: the same Democrats who want to impeach President Trump for colluding with foreigners to interfere in our elections, are illegally colluding with foreigners to interfere in our elections. [emoji]
On March 7 2019, the Poynter Insitute published an article about precisely the type of post quoted above. In “Forget fake news stories. False text posts are getting massive engagement on Facebook,” author Daniel Funke explained:
When Facebook started letting users post text on top of colored backgrounds in 2016, it seemed like a fairly benign way to get people to share more personal thoughts on the platform…. But since then, like other formats on Facebook, the text post feature has been weaponized into an effective way to spread misinformation on the platform.
Over the past few weeks [in January and February 2019], some of the most viral hoaxes on Facebook have spread in the form of text posts. They make salacious political claims without linking to any website or attaching a photo or video. They often come from regular Facebook users instead of Pages or Groups.
As with the posts described by Poynter, the excerpted Facebook status update appeared on a colored background, made a salacious political claim, bore no image or text citations, and came from a single Facebook user, rather than a page or group. The post racked up a six-figure share count in a month and a half.
The uncited claim spread by this particular post was that the city of Chicago introduced “City ID Cards,” documentation that allows undocumented people to vote in state and federal elections (actually called CityKey.) In February 2018, the Chicago Tribune reported the introduction of the cards in an article titled “Chicago ID card would be valid voter identification.” The piece’s opening paragraph suggested that individuals who didn’t read past the headline might draw that conclusion:
Clerk Anna Valencia, who’s heading up the CityKey program, cited state election rules to explain why the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners will accept the card.
“The Illinois Election Code requires the Board of Elections to accept current, valid photo identification cards and other local governmental documentation that includes an individual’s name and address, as proof of identity and residency,” Valencia’s letter reads in part. “The CityKey fits both of these requirements.”
The municipal ID is not yet available to the general public, but Valencia has said it will be in the spring. Most aldermen voted in favor of the program, which is viewed in City Hall circles as a way for Emanuel to boost his standing with Hispanic voters and immigrant rights supporters as he preps a 2019 re-election bid.
But a handful of City Council members are vehemently opposed to the cards. Northwest Side Ald. Nick Sposato, 38th, said he was “beyond disappointed” Valencia opted to make the cards a valid ID for voting.
Sposato pointed out the city is not planning to keep any of the background information applicants provide to establish their home addresses, so undocumented immigrants aren’t afraid federal immigration agents can use the data to track them down.
“I’m not sure of the validity of this,” Sposato said. “They may not have citizenship. Voter fraud would be my biggest concern.”
However, even that confusing juxtaposition of information segued into reporting on concerns of local politicians about “voter fraud.” In that context, it seems that these identification cards do not grant voting rights — they just created speculation that undocumented immigrants might opt to break the law and use the cards as voting identification. In May 2018, WGN reported that undocumented immigrants were eligible to receive the cards and listed some of their functions:
The CityKey cards, offered to eligible Chicago residents, can be used for identification, public transportation, and discounts all around the city.
The government issued ID comes with a number of benefits, including for people who are homeless, or in the country illegally.
Getting a CityKey is simple and only takes about three minutes, city officials said. To qualify, you’ll need to provide a photo ID (unless you’re under 14), your birth date and proof of address. Mobile printing sites will be set up across the city.
An unrelated September 2018 news report examined federal legislation crafted in response to localized jurisdictions’ decisions to allow undocumented immigrants to vote in hyperlocal elections (such as school boards). That article noted an important distinction:
Though it remains illegal for any non-citizen to participate in federal and state elections, federal law leaves it up to the states to decide whether non-residents can vote in local or special elections. Non-citizens currently can vote in some local elections in 11 states.
Per U.S. Code 18, § 611 (“Voting by aliens“), any voting by undocumented persons in state or federal elections is punishable by jail, fines, or both:
(a) It shall be unlawful for any alien to vote in any election held solely or in part for the purpose of electing a candidate for the office of President, Vice President, Presidential elector, Member of the Senate, Member of the House of Representatives, Delegate from the District of Columbia, or Resident Commissioner, unless—
(1) the election is held partly for some other purpose;
(2) aliens are authorized to vote for such other purpose under a State constitution or statute or a local ordinance; and
(3) voting for such other purpose is conducted independently of voting for a candidate for such Federal offices, in such a manner that an alien has the opportunity to vote for such other purpose, but not an opportunity to vote for a candidate for any one or more of such Federal offices.
(b) Any person who violates this section shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
The original poster made a self-contradicting claim, asserting that Chicago City ID cards “allow illegal immigrants to vote in local, state [and] federal elections (which is illegal).” The second portion of that excerpt is correct — it is illegal under any circumstances for a non-citizen to vote in federal or state election, without exception. Both statements in that claim cannot be true, and the first of the two (claiming that Chicago identification cards supersede federal voting laws) is inarguably false.