Hundreds of voter registration applications were delayed last fall at California’s trouble-plagued Department of Motor Vehicles, and the state is trying to determine whether any election results were affected, officials said Tuesday. The DMV acknowledged that it had received 589 registration applications that it failed to forward to Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office before the deadline for the Nov. 6 election. Of that number, 329 were from people who had not previously registered to vote, and the other 260 had moved to a different county and were trying to re-register. It’s not known yet how many of those voters tried to cast ballots and were either turned away or failed to have their votes counted. But in papers filed in a San Francisco federal court, which is overseeing the settlement of a suit by voting-rights advocates against the DMV, Padilla agreed to make sure every vote was counted if the application was properly submitted by the Oct. 22 registration deadline, and to determine whether any election outcomes would be affected.
Based on evidence reviewed so far, “no state or local election outcomes were changed due to delayed transmission of voter registration records,” Sam Mahood, a spokesman for Padilla, said Tuesday.
Padilla also agreed to send letters to all voters whose ballots were held up. His office and the DMV promised to determine the causes of the delays and identify corrective measures within 60 days.
The lawsuit accused the DMV of violating the federal “motor voter” law by requiring more than 1 million Californians to fill out separate voter-registration forms when they renew their driver’s licenses by mail. The agency agreed to change the forms and rolled out a new system of automatic voter registration for license applicants last April, but used a software system that mishandled 23,000 registrations.
DMV customers who showed up at offices without appointments also faced waiting times that averaged 130 minutes in August, although the agency was able to reduce the wait to 46 minutes by October with longer office hours, Saturday service in 60 offices and new self-service terminals.