U.S. Senator Katie Britt, Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen Champion Election Integrity, Expose Deficiency in Federal Elections Law

March 15, 2024

States Don’t Have ‘Anything at Our Disposal to Verify Citizenship’

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 15, 2024 – U.S. Senator Katie Britt (R-Ala.) this week participated in a Rules and Administration Committee hearing entitled, “Administration of Upcoming Elections.”

The witnesses included Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen, whom the Senator introduced in the hearing; Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson; the Executive Director of Charleston County’s Board of Voter Registration and Elections, Isaac Cramer; Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse; and President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Janai Nelson.

Senator Britt began her remarks by highlighting the important initiatives currently being led by Secretary Allen in the State of Alabama to recruit poll workers. Secretary Allen emphasized the benefits of engaging groups across the state to support their local communities and participate in ensuring fair, accurate, and secure elections.

Additionally, Senator Britt mentioned her work in the Senate to provide states with the tools they need to protect our elections processes and better ensure that noncitizens are unable to register to vote. Senator Britt last December led all of her Rules Committee Republican colleagues in introducing the Citizen Ballot Protection Act, the Senate companion bill to H.R.4316, which was originally introduced by Representative Gary Palmer (AL-06). This legislation would ensure States are able to verify that only American citizens are registering to vote in federal elections.

Secretary Allen agreed with Senator Britt on the importance of verifying citizenship and affirmed that secretaries of state around the country currently lack the tools they need to effectively do so. He explained that the Biden Administration has hindered attempts by the State of Alabama to cross-check voter files for non-citizens.

Finally, Secretary Allen outlined why Alabama is known for holding accurate and fair elections. The State requires photo voter identification to ensure that Alabama elections are secure, and provides photo identification free-of-charge to any eligible voter who needs one.

A transcript of Senator Britt’s opening remarks as follows:

BRITT:  Thank you, Madam [Chairwoman], Ranking Member Fischer, for your continued leadership on this committee. It is a pleasure to introduce Secretary Allen today at this hearing. Wes Allen serves as Alabama’s 54th Secretary of State, where he is our state’s chief election official. Prior to his election to his current office, Secretary Allen spent nearly a decade as Pike County, Alabama’s probate judge, which is the county’s senior election official.

He was then elected to the Alabama House of Representatives, where he served as the Vice Chair of the Legislature’s Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee. I know that Secretary Allen is honored to appear before this committee and offer his knowledge on matters as he’s made it his mission to make it easy to vote in safe and secure elections.

Thank you for being here.

A transcript of her line of questioning as follows:

BRITT: Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.

Secretary Allen, this committee has heard testimony before regarding nationwide challenges with recruiting and retaining poll workers. I know that earlier this year you launched the ‘Heroes to the Polls’ initiative in Alabama to help recruit poll workers in our state. Can you explain more about what that initiative is and how it’s been implemented and how it’s going at this point?

ALLEN: Thank you, Senator. So, who better than veterans to protect our elections? You know, they have protected our constitutional right to vote with their service through the military, so we wanted to launch this program to help recruit poll workers.

I can tell you, as a former probate judge who stayed on the phone a lot recruiting poll workers, that’s one thing we wanted to make available and help our local elected officials who run our elections, and so that’s really, really important that we make that available to them.

And, you know, we want to give another tool to the probate judges, circuit clerks, and sheriffs, when they’re appointing those election officials. And when I’m speaking to groups, one thing I always try to encourage these groups to do is I ask them, ‘raise your hand if you’ve ever served as a poll worker.’

And sometimes you have some, sometimes you don’t. And I always encourage them to get involved because that’s how they can help their local communities. And so, with our ‘Heroes at the Polls’ program, we think that’s important.

We’ve also launched ‘Lawyers for Liberty,’ which is working with the Alabama State Bar to give attorneys and to recruit attorneys if they sign up, get trained, and work on election day, they get four hours of continuing education through the State Bar. So, we want to make that tool available to them as well. And so, we’re taking steps to help these local officials to recruit poll workers.

BRITT:  Excellent. Thank you for your work on that.

Additionally, as you know, federal law bans noncitizens from voting in federal elections. That being the case, it’s important that states be given the tools that they need to ensure noncitizens are not able to register or vote in our elections.

Last year, I introduced the Citizen Ballot Protection Act here in the Senate, and I appreciate all of my Republican colleagues on this committee joining me in that effort. Congressman Gary Palmer of Alabama introduced the House version of that bill earlier last summer, and it was voted out of [the] House Committee on Administration in November.

I hope to see both chambers pass this and it become law. The bill is simple. It amends the National Voter Registration Act to allow states to put in place a proof of citizenship requirement for both the federal mail voter registration form and any state mail voter registration form that they might be able to develop.

Secretary Allen, in that vein, can you explain what resources secretaries of state have around the country at their disposal to provide their state or local election officials the ability to verify citizenship when individuals attempt to register to vote?

ALLEN:  Thank you for the question. The simple answer is we don’t have really anything at our disposal to verify citizenship. Really, when a man or a woman goes in to register to vote and they sign their name, they are attesting that they are telling the truth, that they are a citizen of the country.

Just recently, back in December, we asked the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for a list of non-citizens so we could cross-check our voter file in Alabama. We were denied that list from the federal government.

They told us to use the SAVE program, which is the Systematic Alien Verification Entitlement program database. But the thing is, the SAVE program database does not allow states to verify citizenship through that database. So that’s really all we have. We tried.

You know, the federal government, the federal courts, have blocked previous efforts by states to verify citizenship. I think it’s important now more than ever, especially given what’s happening at our southern border.

BRITT:  Are there any other additional barriers that hinder citizenship verification that you can think of? It sounds like they’re significant, as it is.

ALLEN:  There are significant challenges to verifying citizenship. You know, we have tried making telephone calls and so forth to federal agencies.

BRITT:  I only have 30 seconds left. Just quickly, you mentioned this in your opening testimony –you talked about if an Alabama voter needs identification, that you will go to their home free of charge. Can you explain to the committee here the efforts that we make in the state to be able to make that available to every citizen?

ALLEN:  Sure. So, we require photo identification to vote. But we will give anyone that needs a photo identification to vote in Alabama, free of charge, we’ll go to their home. If they call and request that, we will go to their house to make sure they have a photo identification.

We want everybody, every eligible Alabama citizen to be able to vote, Senator.

BRITT:  Thank you.

A video of Senator Britt’s line of questioning can be viewed here. A high-quality video for media use can be downloaded here.