A program that will give undocumented immigrants a Chicago identification card has critics concerned about the impact those IDs could have on the 2019 municipal election.
State Rep. Jeanne Ives stepped off the gubernatorial campaign trail and waded into the controversy Monday morning, framing Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s upcoming CityKey ID program as an assault on the integrity of local elections.
“Our representative republic depends on free and fair elections,” Ives said. “If our elections are compromised by fraud or even the potential for it, then our policymakers lose the confidence of the people, and the legitimacy of our government is jeopardized.”
The CityKey program, currently in the testing stage, is scheduled to launch publically sometime this spring. It was created to make it simpler for Chicago residents to obtain government identification.
So far, CityKey IDs will be able to function as CTA Ventra passes and library cards, while the city is currently exploring other partnerships and benefits for cardholders. The ID has also been pushed by the mayor’s office as a way to help the city’s undocumented and homeless access basic city services.
While the program has enjoyed wide support from City Council, the idea of government identification for undocumented immigrants initially made some conservative aldermen uncomfortable.
Then, when City Clerk Anna Valencia announced in a letter to aldermen last month that CityKey would be a valid form of ID for voter registration, some conservatives across the state accused Chicago election officials of effectively supporting voter fraud.
The program has also since caught the attention of national conservative media, whose pundits have suggested that a government ID for undocumented immigrants would enable them to vote illegally.
During her press conference, Ives mentioned a Fox News segment from Feb. 27, where TV pundit Tucker Carlson accused Emanuel of promoting the program “to get re-elected even if it takes illegal voters.”
In response, Ives said she would submit an amendment as well as a standalone bill to the Illinois General Assembly that would make it illegal for cities to use their local municipal ID for voter registration.
Speaking from inside a conference room at 70 W. Madison, Ives was joined by 41st Ward Alderman Anthony Napolitano and Chris Cleveland, Chairman of the Chicago Republican Party. Napolitano pushed back on the “name-calling” he’d received for voting against the City Council measure that provided $1 million to the CityKey program in October 2016.
“I am the son of an immigrant,” Napolitano said. “What we do believe in is that this is a country that immigrants can come to and prosper like my family does, or did, but do it legally.”
Cleveland took aim at the Chicago Board of Elections, accusing them of working to suppress the Republican vote in Cook County.
“They are biased, in my opinion. They are crooks,” Cleveland said. “This city is known worldwide for voter fraud.”
Election officials have largely dismissed these claims. Chicago Board of Elections spokesperson Jim Allen argued that a CityKey ID is no different than a driver’s license, which is also available to non-citizens in Illinois, when it comes to voter registration.
“On voter registration forms across America, the very first box to check is whether or not you’re a US citizen, and the affirmation at the very end that you sign says that you are a US citizen,” Allen said in an interview with NBC. “If you’re not, you’re subject to being fined, imprisoned and deported.”
While combating voter fraud has been championed by conservative politicians for decades now, there is little to no evidence that illegal voting is anything but rare. A 2014 study from The Washington Post found 31 “credible instances” of voter fraud from 2000 to 2014 out of more than a billion votes cast nationwide.