ACLU: California DMV Fails at Voter Registration; Lawsuit Possible

California DMV Can’t Keep Up With Voter Registration

Over twenty years ago, Congress enacted the Motor Voter Act which required state Department of Motor Vehicles to allow residents to register at their branches. Now, California’s ACLU claims the state’s DMV is falling behind and is warning of a lawsuit.

The group filed a complaint with Secretary of State Alex Padilla on behalf of four organizations: the League of Women Voters of California, the National Council of La Raza, California Common Cause and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.

The suit also is on behalf of three private residents.

The complaint claims the DMV creates difficulties around registering and yet when persons do file a request with the agency they don’t always wind up on the voting records.

Demos, a non-profit group coordinating with the ACLU says California isn’t the sole state failing to implement the law. Stuart Naifeh, an attorney with Demos, says, “its shortcomings offer a clear instance of the issues we have observed that are incorrect.”

One of the problems is California’s DMV doesn’t automatically transfer driver data from license applications to a voter registration application, despite the fact that most of the data is identical. The DMV doesn’t consistently prepare the voter data forms either.

“The state does not treat the license application as a voter registration. Instead, it makes citizens complete an entirely different registration form,” Naifeh said. “We’ve found problems when people do submit a voter application at the DMV, it’s not processed, and they are skipped on the voter rolls.”

Shelley Small, a 62-year-old resident of Los Angeles County, is one of the three named in the complaint.

“She voted each ballot since she was 19,” Naifeh points out. “In 2014 she relocated to West Hollywood from Encino and visited [the DMV] to update her license. She was assured her voter listing would be updated.”

When Small tried to vote, she was told she was not listed on the roles and was unable to cast a vote for the only time in her life. A DMV spokesman refused to comment, claiming the DMV had not seen the complaint.

The ACLU is hoping for a friendly reception at Padilla’s office. The former state senator was a champion of expanding voter access when in the Legislature and authored legislation to make it easier for Californians to register.

Originally posted on League of Women Voters of California

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