Voter registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles was supposed to make democracy easier, not harder. The reality has been far more complicated. A wrinkle in the DMV’s current process has left many voters in the cold during this hotly contested primary season. As of April 1, the DMV has switched from a largely paper-based registration system to one using computer terminals. The change allows customers to complete their registration without having to fill out a separate form — but registering with a political party requires a second, separate terminal in a different room. More than a third of those who have registered at the DMV since April have not completed the questions at the separate computer terminal. The two-step process has resulted in many potential voters missing out on the chance to record their language, ballot and — crucially — party preferences. The Republican Party’s presidential primary is only open to Republican voters.
Many election officials are advising voters to register online to avoid confusion. The registration deadline for the June 7 primary is May 23.
The DMV has long struggled to implement a simple, effective voter registration system. When it used a largely paper-based system voting-rights activists rightly complained about the cumbersome process.
Potential voters had to fill out a separate form that duplicated much of the information already listed on a driver’s license form. DMV employees then had to ship completed forms to the secretary of state’s office for data entry. There were many complaints from voters about delayed and denied registrations.