“It’s kind of like auditing the agencies,” Lawmakers consider bill verifying voters’ citizenship

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Lawmakers in the House are considering a bill which would verify how many registered voters are legal citizens.

House Bill 3341, authored by Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, would allow the Secretary of the State Election Board to compare state and federal databases for the purposes of seeing whether there are non-citizens registered as voters.

"It’s kind of like auditing the agencies. Unless we do it, we’re not going to know, so we need to at least double check against the national databases," Roberts said. "We're going to see if there is truly a problem, and we'll get that information whenever the results come in."

Under the bill, voters who are not citizens would not be prohibited from voting, but they would be turned over to the district attorney's office for their county.

When the bill was initially drafted, it required anyone registering to vote or showing up to polls to bring documents proving their legal status; however, it was amended.

"We worked with the Election Board to prevent any lawsuits," Roberts told News 4. "Other states have done similar things where they require citizenship up front, and we’re just trying to avoid all that."

Paul Ziriax, secretary of the Oklahoma State Election Board, said a person must be a legal citizen to vote. He said, right now, there is no widespread evidence of non-citizens voting in Oklahoma; however, it's also not unheard of.

"Every year, there are a handful of incidents where we become aware of somebody who’s not a citizen and who has registered to vote and we are required by law to report those people," Ziriax said. "I think this would have a very low impact on the state election board on our election system. I think the cost would be very low, so there's nothing harmful about transparency about knowing what the situation is."

Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman said it's a measure she cannot support. Virgin told News 4 she finds the premise of the bill concerning.

"All state agencies are pretty strapped for cash right now. It sounds like something that may be an added cost to the election board, and I’ve got bills like automatic voter registration so I think my primary goal is make it easier to vote," she said.

The bill passed in the House's Elections and Ethics Committee Wednesday by a 4 to 2 vote.