California’s Padilla Threatens Halt to Problematic Motor Voter Program

Though the secretary of state did not offer details about what a pause to the DMV’s voter registration program would look like, it is being considered as an option.

by Bryan Anderson, The Sacramento Bee / October 12, 2018
e.Republic/David Kidd

(TNS) -- Trying to get tens of thousands of voter registration errors under control, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla may temporarily halt a program that automatically registers voters through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

A freeze to the state’s Motor Voter program is “certainly on the table,” Padilla said at a news conference on Tuesday.

“We’re doing the homework as we speak of what does that mean and what it would take,” Padilla said. “These mistakes from the DMV are absolutely unacceptable.”

California launched the Motor Voter program on April 23, which automatically registers and pre-registers eligible voters when they go into a DMV office to complete a driver’s license, state ID or address change transaction.

The DMV reported last month that it made 23,000 voter registration errors resulting from technicians toggling between multiple screens and having registration information improperly merged. In May, the Los Angeles Times reported that a software error affected 77,000 voter records generated at the DMV.

On Monday, the DMV said about 1,500 people were improperly registered to vote, some of whom may not be citizens. Padilla said his office immediately removed all 1,500 people from the voter rolls. In a letter to the DMV, he called for the agency to hire an independent third-party to conduct an audit.

In light of the recent struggles, the California Department of Finance said its ongoing performance audit into the DMV will now include an expanded component regarding the Motor Voter program.

It’s unclear how Motor Voter would be frozen before the upcoming November election. The Secretary of State’s Office declined to comment further on how such an action could be possible.

Assemblyman Jim Patterson, a Fresno Republican who has been a sharp critic of the DMV, wants a complete shutdown of the Motor Voter operation until a thorough investigation is conducted. While a freeze could be done when lawmakers return to the Capitol next year, he pressed for Gov. Jerry Brown to take executive action in the meantime.

“The governor could do it with an executive decision to suspend things of this nature under what would be his emergency authority,” Patterson said. “If this isn’t an emergency with regard to the sanctity of our voter rolls, I don’t know what it is.”

Brown’s office responded with a statement saying it is committed to addressing ongoing concerns through an audit Brown ordered last month.

“We share an interest in addressing these issues, which is why a Department of Finance audit is underway,” said a statement from Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the governor.

Voters are encouraged to check their registration status through the Secretary of State’s My Voter Status tool.

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