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CA GOP Calls For Suspension Of Motor Voter Program After DMV Audit Shows Duplicate Records

People wait in line outside of the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in Los Angeles, California
People wait in line outside of the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in Los Angeles, California
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

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The California DMV’s new voter registration program is confusing to voters and full of technical difficulties, leading to hundreds of thousands of discrepancies in voter registrations sent to the Secretary of State, according to an audit released Friday.

None of the discrepancies in roughly 3 million voter records reviewed by auditors resulted in major voter registration errors, such as putting someone in the wrong political party or allowing someone to vote who should not have, officials from the state Department of Finance said.

But the audit only examined a set of registrations between April and September 2018 and did not rule out the possibility of major errors in other registrations. Last year, DMV officials said one error may have prevented nearly 600 people from voting and another may have allowed about 1,500 people, perhaps including non-citizens, to incorrectly register to vote.

After the report’s release, the Secretary of State’s office said six people who were registered to vote despite opting out cast ballots in 2018. Deputy Secretary of State Paula Valle said the state can’t confirm if the people were legally eligible to vote, but that none of them obtained driver’s licenses under a program for immigrants living in the country illegally.

California launched the “motor voter” program in April 2018, and it automatically registers people to vote when they visit the Department of Motor Vehicles unless they opt out. 

We get the latest.

With files from the Associated Press. 

We reached out to Governor Gavin Newsom and Secretary of State Alex Padilla. They were unable to join us for the interview. 

We also reached out to Steven Gordon, Director of the California Department of Motor Vehicles. He was unable to accommodate our request for interview, but sent us this statement: 

“I welcome the thorough Ernst & Young Independent System Assessment reports of the Motor Voter project. 

Many of the point-in-time findings and recommendations have already been implemented by DMV to improve the way we collect information from our customers and provide Motor Voter information to the Secretary of State. We continue to collaborate with the Secretary of State to efficiently and accurately provide voter registration information. 

As we move forward to continue our improvements to how we do business, we must not lose sight of the success of the Motor Voter program. Each day 50,000 voter registrations are processed by DMV. Since the program began, 1.27 million new voter registrations have been processed and more than 3.7 million voter registrations have been updated. There have also been 145,000 new pre-registrations.

Business process improvements and quality assurance enhancements continue, but the system is working.”

We also reached out to Amy Tong, State Chief Information Officer and California Department of Technology Director. She was unable to join us, but sent us this statement: 

“The California Department of Technology appreciates the work of the joint technical workgroup established by the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Secretary of State’s office. CDT also agrees with the workgroup’s determinations that the differences identified by EY are not errors, but rather are expected differences resulting from architectural differences between their database systems; and the differences did not have an impact on the accuracy or eligibility of the voter registration data. CDT’s involvement with the Motor Voter program formally ended in November 2018 but the department has remained available to assist DMV and SOS with this critical program when requested.”


Bryan Anderson, political reporter for the Sacramento Bee and host of the Bee’s California Nation podcast, where he has been following this story; he tweets @BryanRAnderson

Shannon Grove, California Senate Republican Leader and California state senator representing the 16th district, which encompasses Kern County, parts of Tulare and parts of San Bernardino County