Secretary of State: 4K noncitizens on voter rolls
By Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau
Lansing — One day after being sued over a controversial ballot box citizenship question, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said Tuesday there are an estimated 4,000 noncitizens on Michigan's voter rolls.
The estimate is based on the state's access to citizenship information for one-fifth of the population, Johnson said, adding the federal government won't give her access to more citizenship data.
Johnson said the results of a "very tedious" analysis of 58,000 driver's licenses and state-issued identification cards found 963 noncitizens registered to vote.
Department of State employees cross-referenced those noncitizens with voting records and found 54 have a voting history and have voted a total of 95 times, Johnson said.
Using census estimates that 305,000 noncitizens live in Michigan, Johnson's office extrapolated that 5,064 could be noncitizens and then lowered its estimate to 4,000 to account for children, spokeswoman Gisgie Gendreau said.
Johnson said the discovery justifies her insistence that Michigan's 7.34 million registered voters be asked to affirm their citizenship if they vote at the polls in November. The daughter of a Canadian immigrant, Johnson said the citizenship question is necessary because over the years noncitizens have been automatically registered to vote while legally obtaining a driver's license.
"We have a problem. We need to fix it," Johnson told The Detroit News. "Denying and minimizing it doesn't get the job done."
A group of voting rights advocates, labor unions and citizens sued Johnson in federal court Monday, challenging her authority to ask voters to affirm their citizenship after Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed legislation adding the question to absentee and in-person voting applications.
The plaintiffs say the question is redundant because voters affirm their citizenship when they register to vote and say the question is an ineffective way to root out potential voter fraud.
"If someone is legitimately trying to misrepresent themselves as a citizen in order to interfere with our elections, then what's to say they won't misrepresent themselves a second time at the ballot box," said election attorney Jocelyn Benson, who was Johnson's 2010 Democratic opponent.
Benson said Johnson's office should remove the noncitizens from the voter rolls rather than "using fear and xenophobia" with the citizenship inquiry at the polls.
Johnson, a Republican, also implied President Barack Obama and Democratic county and city clerks are obstructing her efforts to root out noncitizen voters. She specifically noted her office found 80 noncitizens registered to vote in Macomb County, where County Clerk Carmella Sabaugh, a Democrat, has said she won't let the citizenship question appear on applications to vote.
"I don't think anybody wants noncitizens to vote no matter what their party affiliation to vote," Johnson said.
Sabaugh questioned Johnson's data and wanted to know whether the Secretary of State's Office has notified the noncitizens on the voter rolls that it's a felony for them to vote.
"If she sees this as a real big problem, then I think she needs to look at her branch offices" where people register to vote, Sabaugh told The News. "I don't know if we can trust these numbers."
The state Bureau of Elections is "working to remove anyone who is not a qualified voter from the rolls," Gendreau said.
Johnson, a former Oakland County clerk, said she's been "turned away" by the Social Security Administration and U.S. Department of Homeland Security in four attempts to verify the citizenship of all registered voters.
"I think the best way is for this administration to do their job and that's to help us get noncitizens off the voter rolls," Johnson said.
Johnson's late afternoon news release contained statements of support from Oakland County Clerk Bill Bullard Jr.; state Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart; and Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township.
"We know that noncitizens have been invited to register to vote for decades with many doing so,whether they've done it intentionally or not," Lund said in a statement. "Putting noncitizens on notice that casting a ballot is a serious crime is a simple, common-sense solution to this problem."
Citing her general authority to prescribe election forms, Johnson first added the citizenship question to ballot applications in the February Republican presidential primary.
After that contest, Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer filed a Freedom of Information Act with Johnson's office to see how many noncitizens were caught voting in the GOP primary. Johnson's office said four of the 1.2 million may have been noncitizens, according to Brewer. [email protected]
From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120919/POLITICS01/209190348#ixzz26vB1cD5n
CNN) -- What if you found yourself stuck alone at a faraway airport -- with no money, credit cards or ID? How easily could you fly back home again?
You might survive if you had a smartphone. Emerging "empty pockets" technology is increasingly allowing travelers to use their phones to make purchases, book flights, check in and board planes.
Wallets? They're so 2008.
Delta, American and United are already big into electronic boarding passes on smartphones, and stragglers like JetBlue are planning e-boarding programs in the near future.
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What's next? If some visionaries have their way, the future of mobile travel will touch virtually every key activity at the airport -- including security and U.S. passports. Smartphone technology might improve airport efficiency and help ease the pain from skyrocketing traffic predicted in the next 20 years.
But is a post-9/11 world comfortable with the idea of merging personal cell phones into the airport security network?
Apple -- still basking in the afterglow of last week's iPhone 5 curtain raiser -- is also unveiling Passbook, an app which organizes e-boarding passes, flight reservations, coupons and other documents.
But Apple has a much more grandiose plan for its empty pocket dreams, according to public U.S. Patent and Trademark Office documents. Read the patent document (PDF).
For example, imagine checking bags with your cell phone -- or passing through security by flashing an official driver's license or U.S. passport displayed on your phone.
Outside the airport, envision using just your phone to rent a car or to check into a hotel. How about using your phone as an electronic hotel room key?
But let's get real, say industry experts and government officials. As cool as all these ideas sound, extending Apple's technology and influence to airport baggage tracking and TSA security would be unprecedented.
"I'm always kind of staggered by the scale and complexity and the ambition that they have," says mobile phone industry analyst Nick Holland of Yankee Group.
As you might expect from the secretive folks at Apple, they wouldn't talk to CNN about the patent documents. But we did grab some time with "Apple Insider" reporter Neil Hughes, who covers nothing but Apple, including its patents for future products.
"Security may be the biggest issue," says Hughes. Carrying all your personal ID and travel documents on a single device would be very tempting for skilled password hacks, says Hughes.
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The 2008 patent application was approved in July and filed under the working title "iTravel." Hughes suspects the iTravel concept will be folded into Apple's Passbook app, which will be available for download on Wednesday. Right now, Passbook will store electronic versions of airline boarding passes which will automatically pop up on iPhone screens when you arrive at the airport. The phone knows where you are, thanks to geo-locator technology.
That aspect alone will make a lot of gadget-geeky travelers feel all gee-whizzy inside.
Even more gee-whizzy: The patent calls for iPhones to automatically check in luggage when passengers approach an airport baggage check-in kiosk. (See details in the photo gallery above.)
Would security benefit from smart-phone based e-passports and e-drivers licenses? Would they increase speed, efficiency or security at TSA check points?
Currently -- as most of us know -- TSA agents briefly examine government ID and boarding passes as each passenger presents their documents at a checkpoint at the end of a security line.
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Under Apple's patent, a traveler's phone would automatically send electronic identification to a TSA agent as soon as the traveler gets in line.
While each traveler waits in line, TSA agents would examine the electronic ID at an electronic viewing station.
Next, at the X-ray stations, a traveler's phone would confirm to security agents that the traveler's ID had already been checked. Throughout the process, the phone photo could be displayed on a screen for comparison with the traveler. Facial recognition software could be included in the process. (See details on Apple's proposal in the photo gallery above.)
The patent documents offer a surprising number of details which open doors to key questions about the system, but Apple declined to discuss the patent.
The TSA wouldn't comment either on the viability of Apple's plan. But other government officials, aviation authorities and longtime industry experts say Apple faces at least three high hurdles if they want to see this idea to fruition.
Several experts say a key question that must be answered is: How would you prove that the phone is yours? In other words, how would you prove that the e-passport is actually you?
To get around this problem, future phones or electronic ID may require some form of biometric security function -- like fingerprint matching.
In general, passports must be designed to be difficult to copy. Recent security changes to U.S. passports have included a hidden radio frequency identification chip to hinder counterfeiters. The chip includes the same data as the paper passport, a unique chip ID number, a digital version of the passport holder's photo "which will facilitate the use of face recognition technology at ports-of-entry," according to the State Department website.
Any company that intends to create an official electronic ID will have to work closely with countless government authorities to come up with secure, verifiable standards. Think about the complexity of that idea across 50 U.S. states and all the nations that travelers visit each year.
An electronic passport would have to be approved by an international standards organization, and it would have to be usable from country to country, according to the U.S. State Department, which oversees U.S. passports.
There are ongoing government efforts aimed at using technology to enhance passport security and convenience, according to a State Department official.
But the State Department says a smartphone portable e-passport is unlikely to become a reality anytime soon.
"We're not at a point where the government is going to go digital for any of that stuff," says Hughes, of "Apple Insider." Then he laughs and says, "I mean, I'm not even allowed to laminate my Social Security card."
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Apple's patent calls for the placement of special kiosks around the airport which will automatically exchange data with your phone via a close range wireless technology called near field communication (NFC). Apple phones -- including the new iPhone 5 -- don't include NFC, but they eventually would, according to the iTravel patent.
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If consumers, airlines, airports and the TSA don't embrace the NFC kiosks, experts say it's unlikely Apple's vision would become reality.
"First you would have to sell industry on Apple's idea, says Hughes. "Then you'd have to sell it to travel consumers."
Case in point: Google Wallet, a mobile phone app which allows people to make purchases with their NFC-enabled android phones. You set it up by attaching your Wallet account to your credit card. Then, you wave your phone near a special NFC-enabled point-of-purchase terminal, and voila! It's paid for.
Most NewYork City taxis take Google Wallet. Travelers using Newark Liberty Airport can tap their Wallet-enabled phones at the New Jersey Transit rail station and at New York's Penn Station. Many cabs in San Francisco also are Wallet-friendly. Also, using Google Wallet will get you access to special discount offers. Google isn't ruling out adding more travel features to Wallet -- like e-boarding passes. "A wallet can hold all kinds of things," hints Google's Nate Tyler. "Things are absolutely in development."
A little more than a year after launching, Google Wallet has about 200,000 NFC point of purchase terminals nationwide, according to Google.
Although the concept may be ahead of its time, analyst Holland says Google Wallet remains less than successful because there simply aren't enough terminals. "They're probably about three years premature," Holland says.
"It's a chicken-and-egg problem," says Hughes. "You need to have the NFC kiosks there and you need to be aware of it and the stores have to invest in it, so sometimes it just doesn't catch on."
Along with making a buck, Silicon Valley appears to be trying to make travel more convenient through smartphone technology. That makes sense, because travelers will need all the help they can get to plot a course through increasingly crowded airports.
The number of yearly U.S. commercial airline passengers is expected to nearly double to 1.2 billion by 2032, according to the FAA. As increasingly complicated smart-phone partnerships evolve between the tech world and the sprawling travel industry bureaucracy, it looks like growing pains will be unavoidable.