California MVD repeats Arizona’s MVD voter registration errors

VotersThe media villagers love to cite the factoid that the largest bloc of voters in Arizona is now  “party not designated,” or the misnomer  of “independent.”

They use this factoid to assert their media narrative/media bias that people are fed up with the two party system.

But Arizona’s election debacle with the Presidential Preference Election back in March disclosed another possible reason for this surge in “party not designated” registered voters: motor-voter registration errors at the MVD. Elections MVD error might have kicked Arizona voters:

Voters across Arizona might have lost their party affiliation and been forced to cast provisional ballots in Tuesday’s presidential preference election because of errors at the state Motor Vehicle Division, according to election officials.

A widespread complaint during Tuesday’s voting debacle came from voters who learned records showed they were not registered with a party and therefore were ineligible to vote in the closed primary. Many of these voters, from both the Democratic and Republican parties, claimed decades of party participation.

Some of these voters might have lost their political-party registration when they updated their addresses in person at Motor Vehicle Services, officials said Friday.

“It might have been a clerical error putting that voter in ‘party not designated,'” said Elizabeth Bartholomew, communications manager for the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office Elections Department.

[Voters] may have mistakenly lost their party affiliation at the MVD if they did not select a party on paper forms used to update addresses, Bartholomew said.

A similar situation is now occurring in California ahead of its June 7 presidential primary. The LA Times reports, Registered to vote at the DMV? Check again. Many who use the new process miss a vital step two:

If you’ve visited the DMV in the last few weeks, you may have noticed that you can now complete your voter registration at the same time you renew your driver’s license — without having to fill out a separate form.

But it’s a little more complicated than that.

Unless voters also stop to answer questions at a computer terminal in another room, they will be registered as having no party preference. Voter advocates say this two-step process could disenfranchise thousands of voters, especially those who still want to vote in the Republican Party’s closed presidential primary.

Since the terminals were rolled out April 1, the Department of Motor Vehicles has registered more than 14,000 voters in its offices statewide. Of those, 4,747 people — more than one-third — did not complete questions posed at the touch  screens.

The machines, located in a separate room and typically used to administer written driver’s tests, now ask several optional questions, including language preference, if a person wants to be a permanent vote-by-mail voter and party preference.

“We really think people are going to slip through the cracks here,” says Lori Shellenberger, voting rights director for the ACLU of California, which last year threatened to sue the DMV over voter registration issues.

The DMV says the new system improves upon the largely paper-based one it previously used, and is a major step toward the eventual implementation of the state’s new motor voter law, which is expected to add millions of Californians to the voter rolls.

But voting rights activists say there’s more work to be done.

* * *

Registrars say the DMV does not have the smoothest system.

“I used to tell voters, ‘You don’t come to me to register your car, so don’t go to the DMV to register to vote,’ ” says Gail Pellerin, the registrar for Santa Cruz County. She has been critical of the agency’s protocols in the past.

* * *

California’s driver’s license application has asked whether citizens want to register to vote or change their registration. Until last month, answering “yes” meant having to fill out a separate voter registration card stapled to the back of the application – with much of the same information already listed on the driver’s license form. [Similar to Arizona]

DMV employees had to ship completed forms to the secretary of State for data entry. For years, voting rights activists argued the process was too cumbersome and violated the law.

“They did the minimum they had to, and it wasn’t enough,” said Shellenberger. “Every election… we got countless calls from people” who thought they’d registered to vote at the DMV but didn’t show up in the database when they showed up to vote.

* * *

Last year, a coalition of groups including the ACLU and League of Women Voters sent a letter to the DMV, threatening to sue if the agency didn’t come up with a more streamlined process.

DMV asked for and was granted $2.3 million to incorporate signature pads already at counters so citizens could complete their voter registration with one transaction.

At about the same time, the New Motor Voter Act was winding its way through the Legislature and was ultimately signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. The law requires the DMV to automate voter registration by electronically transmitting drivers’ data to the secretary of State unless the person opts out.

Anticipating a surge in voters registering in field offices, DMV officials quickly pivoted from their plan to use the signature pads to instead use more plentiful touch-screen terminals.

* * *

Pellerin and other county registrars have applauded the DMV for its recent initiatives, including rigging its online driver’s license renewal system to automatically enter a driver’s data into the secretary of State’s online voter registration system if the person indicates her or she wants to register to vote.

Results from that effort, launched March 30, already have had an impact: More than 12,970 voters have been registered through this portal as of April 28, compared with 915 voters who followed a simple link on the DMV’s website the month before.

But Shellenberger and other voter advocates say the fact that early data show so many people are walking out of DMV offices without going to the touch-screen machines is a “glaring problem” that should be fixed before the New Motor Voter law is implemented in July 2017.

Shiomoto told lawmakers at the hearing that her agency is open to making adjustments, and has already added “employee ambassadors” at each field office. They are tasked with shepherding people to the touch-screen terminals to complete the voter registration process. Bright pink slips of paper printed with a “checklist” are supposed to help guide them, too.

For voters who leave the DMV office without completing the touch-screen questions, the secretary of State plans to send follow-up letters, instructing the voter to register all over again — either online or by filling out a paper form. But because the voters’ language preferences are not known, the letter that will hit mailboxes will be in 10 languages, including Spanish, Hindi, Korean and Khmer. That makes the letter more likely to be ignored, activists say.

The DMV has asked lawmakers for another $3.9 million to continue implementing the New Motor Voter Act. After voter advocates and elections officials sent letters raising their concerns, a Senate budget committee voted 3 to 2 last week to approve the request, but also added language requiring the DMV to implement a “one-step” voter registration process by next year. It remains unclear whether that language will be adopted as part of the final budget this June.

In the meantime, many elections officials say they are advising voters who registered at the DMV to double-check, or to just register online ahead of the June 7 primary. The deadline to register is May 23.

Here in Arizona the voter registration deadline for the August Primary Election is Monday, August 1. Double-check your voter registration to make sure that you are actually registered as you intended.

Note: “Party not designated” or so-called “independent” voters must request a primary ballot for the political party in whose primary you wish to vote. (This differs from the Presidential Preference Election, a closed primary in which you were not eligible to vote).

6 responses to “California MVD repeats Arizona’s MVD voter registration errors

  1. For Sure Not Tom

    Learn to spell or shut the hell up, CITAZAN.

    • AZ BlueMeanie

      Are you Roy Warden? Because if you are, you know that you are banned from this web site.

  2. We need national voting standards. This state-by-state and county-by-county patchwork doesn’t work because it suppresses the vote here and there across the country.

    • For Sure Not Tom

      Automatic registration and a National Voting Holiday.

      For a country that loves to brag that we’re the Leaders of the Free World, we do not walk our talk.

      • Sen. John Kavanagh

        Would I be able to take off from work on the day I mail in my early ballot?

        • For Sure Not Tom

          I realize that the GOTeaP doesn’t want more people voting but even crooked politicians should be able to understand what National Voting Holiday means.