Capitol Alert

California DMV mishandled thousands of voter registrations

The California Department of Motor Vehicles on Wednesday said it has discovered it sent the Secretary of State’s Office 23,000 erroneous voter registrations.

The agency said the errors occurred within the state’s Motor Voter program — which allows eligible applicants getting a driver license to be automatically registered to vote.

The DMV said the errors stem from technicians toggling between multiple screens and registration information being improperly merged. According to the agency, 1,600 residents did not complete a voter registration affidavit and had their information sent to the secretary of state, which maintains the state’s list of registered voters. The DMV said none of the applicants were undocumented immigrants.

“We are committed to getting this right and are working closely with the Secretary of State’s office to correct the errors that occurred,” DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said in a statement.

In some cases, people were registered in the wrong party. Some customers who wished to opt out of the program were added.

In a letter sent to the Secretary of State Alex Padilla on Wednesday, the department said the inaccurate customer information largely affected “voter preferences such as, vote-by-mail options, language and political party selections.”

The DMV said it learned of the issues on Aug. 5. After going through 1.4 million customer records, it narrowed the problem to 23,000 people and immediately stopped sending data to the secretary of state’s office.

The 23,000 customers will soon receive a letter from the DMV notifying them of the problem. “This error was caused by DMV, was not your fault, and DMV sincerely apologizes for this inconvenience,” Shiomoto writes in the letter.

The DMV has been struggling for months with long wait times and outdated technology. With Democrats’ help in August, the department narrowly dodged a request for an audit into upper-level management.

Padilla said he was “extremely disappointed and deeply frustrated that DMV’s administrative error caused inaccurate voter registration data to be transmitted to elections officials. The DMV has assured us that they have taken necessary actions to prevent this from occurring again.”

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Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, has been a vocal critic of the DMV and called the mistake a “cover-up.” He repeated calls for the department to be audited.

“Waiting in long lines is one thing, but walking in registered one way and walking out registered another way is something else entirely,” Patterson said.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s office has not commented, instead deferring to the DMV.

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