When county clerks in New Mexico tried to figure out why voter registrations had slowed to a trickle this spring despite an upcoming primary, they made a surprising discovery: The culprit was a new online voter registration system at motor vehicle offices. Introduced with fanfare in January, the new system required drivers to go to a separate computer kiosk at the motor vehicle office to complete their voter registration. That proved to be too much hassle for many potential voters; it also violated the federal “motor voter” law. New Mexico, which has gone back temporarily to using paper voter registration forms, was trying to improve its motor voter performance in response to a 2010 court order. In most states, no one knows how well motor vehicle agencies comply with the mandate to register voters because no one is really keeping track. But a growing consensus says they are failing. Poor implementation of the National Voter Registration Act, the 21-year-old law that requires motor vehicle offices to register voters, is emerging as a problem when almost every aspect of voting is coming under scrutiny, either because of controversial voter identification laws or long lines at the polls.
The bipartisan commission formed by President Obama to investigate long voting lines in the 2012 election called the motor voter law “the election statute most often ignored.” Motor vehicle departments “are supposed to play the most important registration role,” the commission said. Instead, they “are the weakest link in the system. … Some DMVs appear to disregard the law.”
Inaccurate voter registration causes holdups on Election Day, and a big part of inaccurate voter registrations is the failure by motor vehicle agencies to register voters or to update voter registrations when drivers update their license information, election experts say.
The problem affects millions of Americans. More than 130 million voted in the 2012 election, and, according to the presidential commission, 10 million of them waited more than half an hour to vote. As many as 16 million people are inaccurately registered. In some states, up to 15% of voting records are inaccurate, the commission said. About 50 million Americans, one-quarter of the voting-eligible population, aren’t registered at all.
Full Article: Motor voter problems mean delays at polls.