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California Adds Checks to Motor Voter Program

The looming election and systematic problems have prompted officials to add extra steps to the Department of Motor Vehicles’ voter registration process.

by Bryan Anderson / October 22, 2018

(TNS) — With the midterm elections quickly approaching, California officials are taking extra steps to prevent people from being improperly registered to vote.

The Department of Motor Vehicles, which has been automatically registering customers since the spring, will now complete a manual review of a sample of those registrations each day before sharing them with the Secretary of State’s Office to be added to the voter rolls.

California’s Motor Voter program came under fire in recent months after thousands of registration errors occurred when customers came to DMV field offices. Non-citizens are among those believed to have been wrongfully added to the voter rolls, and it remains unclear whether any of them voted in the June primary.

Seven Republican lawmakers have since called for a freeze to Motor Voter, and Secretary of State Alex Padilla told reporters earlier this month that a halt to the program is “certainly on the table.”

Two days later, on Oct. 11, Padilla instead told the DMV to stop transferring voter data until an additional layer of review was put in place to verify the accuracy of the information. The DMV immediately agreed.

“Before each batch of Motor Voter files is transmitted to your office, a representative sample … will be selected, reviewed and certified manually,” DMV Director Jean Shiomoto and Amy Tong, director of California’s Department of Technology, wrote in a letter to Padilla the following day. “This will ensure that only those persons who have attested to their eligibility to vote under California law are transmitted to your office.”

The state Department of Finance is tasked with overseeing the new review process. The information will be sent to the Secretary of State’s Office on a rolling basis, as the DMV completes each day’s review. On Friday, the office received voter data collected between Oct. 11 and Oct. 13.

“While voter registration activity has continued at the DMV, the data will not been sent to our office until this additional review and verification process is completed,” Padilla’s office said in a statement.

The additional vetting now in place will not prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots in the upcoming Nov. 6 election. Monday is the final day for Californians to register to vote.

Since Motor Voter launched on April 23, the DMV has sent voter data to Padilla’s office automatically. It never had direct access to the voter rolls, according to DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzales.

Gov. Jerry Brown directed his administration last month to conduct a performance audit into the DMV’s operations, technology and governance structure. That audit, underway by the Department of Finance, will now also address the DMV’s challenges implementing the Motor Voter program.

©2018 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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