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After Thousands of Reported Errors, California "Motor Voter" Gets Serious Tune-Up

By: Bridget Clerkin October 30, 2018
California’s Motor Voter program set forth by the Department of Motor Vehicles has drawn criticism for inaccuracies and duplications in its voter registration system.
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With Election Day just around the corner, the most populous state in the nation has found itself forced to reassess its largest source for voter registrations and allay fears that the system could lead to invalid ballots cast in November.

The 11th-hour review came in the wake of reports that tens of thousands of registrations had been mishandled by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and that some non-citizens were possibly added to voter rolls.

The issues stemmed from the state’s Motor Voter program, which allows the DMV to automatically register eligible applicants when they receive their driver’s license.

Last month, the program came under intense scrutiny when it was revealed that human error led to as many as 23,000 inaccurate voter registration applications. An accidental merging of information from two separate screens that technicians were toggling between apparently caused the blunder, which also resulted in as many as 1,600 incomplete registration forms being sent to the official keepers of the state’s voter rolls.

In the aftermath of the mix-up, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla ordered an additional manual review of voter information to take place at the DMV before the agency sends any registration forms to his office, which oversees voter-related data. Last week, the DMV initiated the process, manually combing through a representative sample of new registrants statewide each day.

While the new procedure will not prevent registered voters from casting their choices on November 6, it’s unclear if the additional step is permanent or how long it will extend.

Still, it falls far short of the solutions pushed by some prominent members of the state legislature who want to see the DMV audited and the entire Motor Voter program shuttered.

Indeed, it’s not the first time problems have arisen with the system. Shortly after it officially launched this May, it was reported that as many as 77,000 registration forms had been created in error by a computer glitch.

Still, with state officials everywhere gearing up for the election, it seems that for now, the program will keep driving forward.

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