If you’ve visited the DMV in the last few weeks, you may have noticed that you can now complete your voter registration at the same time you renew your driver’s license — without having to fill out a separate form. But it’s a little more complicated than that. Unless voters also stop to answer questions at a computer terminal in another room, they will be registered as having no party preference. Voter advocates say this two-step process could disenfranchise thousands of voters, especially those who still want to vote in the Republican Party’s closed presidential primary. Since the terminals were rolled out April 1, the Department of Motor Vehicles has registered more than 14,000 voters in its offices statewide. Of those, 4,747 people — more than one-third — did not complete questions posed at the touch screens.
The machines, located in a separate room and typically used to administer written driver’s tests, now ask several optional questions, including language preference, if a person wants to be a permanent vote-by-mail voter and party preference.
“We really think people are going to slip through the cracks here,” says Lori Shellenberger, voting rights director for the ACLU of California, which last year threatened to sue the DMV over voter registration issues.
The DMV says the new system improves upon the largely paper-based one it previously used, and is a major step toward the eventual implementation of the state’s new motor voter law, which is expected to add millions of Californians to the voter rolls.