The California Department of Motor Vehicles’ acknowledgement this week that it botched 23,000 voter registrations is raising new questions about whether it can be trusted to register voters at a time when election integrity is under renewed scrutiny nationwide. The DMV said the errors are being corrected and that new safeguards — put in place after the mistakes surfaced — seem to be working. But the registration mistakes come at a time when the DMV is already under fire over massive backlogs in processing new federally compliant IDs, known as Real IDs. “Waiting in line is one thing, but having your voter registration tampered with without your knowledge or consent is a very disturbing development,” Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, said Thursday. “This touches on the very security and honestly the sacredness of a person’s registration and votes. This calls into question the ability of the DMV to manage voter registration.”
The mistakes included changes in party affiliation, vote-by-mail options and language preference. In some cases, voters who didn’t complete a registration form were registered anyway. The DMV said none of the cases involved non-citizens ineligible to vote.
Voters nationwide have been allowed to register at motor vehicle departments since the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, known as the “motor voter” law. Eligible voters are registered automatically when they apply for or renew a driver’s license or identification card with the DMV unless they choose to “opt out.”
The DMV acknowledged in a letter Wednesday to Secretary of State Alex Padilla that “administrative processing” errors had affected motor voter data sent to his office. The DMV said it found about 23,000 errors in 1.4 million records sent to the secretary of state’s office between April 23 and Aug. 5.
“As California’s chief elections officer, I am extremely disappointed and deeply frustrated that DMV’s administrative error caused inaccurate voter registration data to be transmitted to elections officials,” Padilla said in a statement. “The DMV has assured us that they have taken necessary actions to prevent this from occurring again.”