A Korean woman who possessed a green card was charged with voting illegally three times was fined $100 on Thursday by a U.S. District Court in Raleigh, North Carolina, the News & Observer reported.
Hyo Suk George, 70, who has lived in the U.S. since 1989, could have spent up to six months in prison for the crime but Eastern District Court Judge Terrence Boyle let her off easy.
Instead, Boyle used the opportunity to berate the Whiteville elections board who registered the woman to vote.
"So they see a green card and say, 'That's OK' because they don't know what they're doing," Boyle said. "They ought to be a little smarter than that."
Only U.S. citizens are allowed to vote. A green card allows a non-citizen permanent resident status, not citizenship.
What's the story?
George's federal public defender Sherri Alspaugh said in court Thursday that George had little exposure to the voting system and never intended to vote illegally, according to the newspaper.
Alspaugh claimed that an enthusiastic town council member who attended her church had coaxed her client into casting her first ballot. George had been living legally in the U.S. for nearly 20 years when she first voted.
At the town council member's advice, George registered to vote "next to the senior center" in the small town of about 5,400 residents.
George's attorney said the woman presented her green card, driver's license, and her Social Security number to the election officials in Columbus County who granted her a voter registration card.
George voted in 2008, 2010 and 2016.
"Maybe as much attention as is focused on illegal voting could be placed on educating election workers," Boyle added.
The judge's comments come as the controversy continues surrounding the state's 9th Congressional district where the 2018 midterm election results are believed to have been skewed by fraudulent absentee voters.