Republican legislators Wednesday amplified their claims that Secretary of the State Denise Merrill bypassed the General Assembly by entering an agreement with the Department of Motor Vehicles for a “streamlined motor voter system” to automatically register citizens to vote when they go to the DMV to obtain or renew a driver’s license. At a press conference in the Legislative Office Building, Senate GOP Leader Len Fasano of North Haven said that after Merrill failed to get the legislature this year to approve a bill to establish the automatic motor voter registration system, she “went behind the backs” of lawmakers to negotiate a “memorandum of understanding” to implement the new system administratively. Merrill and the DMV defended the agreement later Wednesday. Under the new “automatic motor voter system,” DMV customers would be registered to vote starting in 2018 unless they decline by choosing to opt out. Under the current motor voter program that’s existed for two decades, DMV customers are registered to vote only if they choose that option.
Fasano appeared with three other Republican lawmakers in the LOB Wednesday to say now isn’t the time to “place added burdens’ on the DMV, which has had nightmarish computer problems since last summer that have caused long customer lines at department offices and still aren’t fully resolved.
GOP Legislators: Merrill, DMV Circumvented General Assembly With New ‘Motor Voter’ System
Fasano said he didn’t challenge Merrill’s legal authority to enter the new agreement with DMV, but he questioned her methods.
Merrill responded with her own press conference, saying that the new system won’t be as hard to establish as the Republicans make it sound. “The good news is at least 50 percent of this system is already built” in the form of the state’s existing online voter registration system with which it would coordinate, she said, adding that it’s “not an overwhelming cost … not an overwhelming job, and we have two years to do it.”