Republican legislative leaders claimed Wednesday that Secretary of the State Denise Merrill and the Department of Motor Vehicles bypassed the General Assembly when they agreed this week to establish a “streamlined motor voter system” to automatically register citizens to vote when they go to DMV for a driver’s license or state-issued identification card. Senate GOP Leader Len Fasano of North Haven and Michael McLachlan of Danbury, the highest-ranking Republican senator on a legislative committee that oversees state elections, issued a statement blasting a “memorandum of agreement” signed Monday by the DMV and Merrill’s office.
Both lawmakers said the agreement goes “around the legislature” because it accomplishes what Merrill tried but failed to accomplish earlier this year during the regular session of the General Assembly. Merrill had proposed a bill to establish the “automatic” motor voter registration system, but it didn’t win passage in the recently concluded legislative session.
Federal law requires states to implement “motor voter” programs that allow DMV customers to register to vote when they renew or apply for a new driver’s license.
“This proposal had a fair chance to make it through the legislative process this year. But it failed. That does not make it now okay for the Secretary of the State to force the project forward without legislative approval,” McLachlan said in a joint statement with Fasano. “[W]hy is she usurping the voice of the public by going around the legislature elected to represent them? Since when does a Secretary of State have executive power authority over the legislature? This is a clear overreach of power to implement a program that is likely to be extremely costly and unreliable.”