Commissioner wants voters’ citizenship status examined

Published 10:46 pm Wednesday, January 9, 2008

By Staff
Wants to make sure voting is limited to qualified citizens
Contributing Editor
Saying the fight against illegal immigration must begin in Washington, N.C., instead of Washington, D.C., two Beaufort County commissioners are trying to prevent illegal aliens from receiving services, benefits and programs paid for with taxpayers’ money.
During the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday, Commissioner Stan Deatherage explained why he wants the board to adopt a resolution calling on the state to order the State Board of Elections and all counties’ boards of elections to verify that each person who registered to vote during the past three years is a citizen of the United States. Deatherage also wants those boards to verify that anyone who registers to vote in the future is a citizen.
Deatherage said the state is slow when it comes to determining if newly registered voters are U.S. citizens. The commissioner said the state must be diligent when it comes to allowing only qualified citizens to vote, which he described as a “most essential and greatest right” of U.S. citizens.
Deatherage also questioned the need for ballots to be printed in Spanish, saying that knowing English is an essential requirement of citizenship. People who are not U.S. citizens should not be allowed to vote, he said.
Because the federal and state governments aren’t doing much, if anything, about illegal immigration, it’s up to Beaufort County to address the issue, Deatherage said.
Other commissioners asked Deatherage to draft his proposed resolution so they may review it before deciding whether to support it. Deatherage hopes to have that draft ready for review before commissioners meet Monday, when they could vote on the resolution.
While discussing his resolution, Deatherage said the Beaufort County Board of Elections permits people who are registering to vote to sign a voter-registration form and “affirm” they are U.S. citizens. Kellie Harris Hopkins, elections director for Beaufort County, said Tuesday that the State Board of Elections has the responsibility of verifying that newly registered voters are citizens.
A person registering to vote is asked to provide the last four numbers of his or her Social Security number and/or his or her driver’s license number. That information is forwarded to the State Board of Elections for it to use in verifying citizenship, Hopkins said. The county elections board does not verify citizenship, she said.
As of Tuesday, Beaufort County had 78 people claiming to be Hispanic registered to vote, she said. Of that number, 29 are registered as Democrats, 22 are registered as Republicans and 27 are unaffiliated. The county has 29,770 registered voters of all races.
In other business, Commissioner Hood Richardson said he wants the county to require all outside agencies such as nonprofit organizations that receive county dollars to submit copies of audits or financial reports that show how they spend the county’s appropriations. Richardson said commissioners should have those audits or reports before they begin cobbling the budget for the 2008-2009 fiscal year.
Richardson said some outside agencies are spending county dollars to provide services, benefits and programs to illegal immigrants. The commissioner said the commissioners and taxpayers have the right to know how much money those agencies spend on people who don’t speak English or are illegal aliens.
Richardson also said it would be a good move to have several commissioners attend any meeting with outside agencies seeking county money. Doing so would avoid any potential misunderstandings between those agencies and the county as to financial agreements between them, he said.
For additional coverage of the board’s meeting, see future editions of the Washington Daily News.