Voter Registration Scandal Shows Why State Auditor Must Review DMV’s Activities


The problems continue at the scandal-plagued California Department of Motor Vehicles.

In August, I wrote about the wait time scandal at the DMV, where Californians applying for a REAL ID Act-compliant license were forced to wait in line for 6 hours or longer to get one.

On PRI’s “Next Round” podcast, I talked with Sacramento Bee political reporter Bryan Anderson, who has reported on the department’s ongoing problems, and how partisan politics got in the way of a much-needed audit of the Department’s operations amid opposition from Gov. Brown.

Things got so bad that Brown reversed course and ordered the Department of Finance to audit the DMV.  There’s much more to audit now thanks to the DMV’s latest scandal.

Under the Motor Voter program launched earlier this year, DMV applicants are automatically registered to vote when applying for a license.

Problems occurred right from the start.  Since April, the department 23,000 bogus registrations were processed, including about 1500 registrations where the voter never completed an affidavit declaring their eligibility to vote.  Secretary of State Alex Padilla conceded that some of these bad registrations could have been non-citizens, and ordered all of them cancelled.

This is on top of another glitch discovered in May where the DMV created 77,000 duplicate voter registration forms, giving a headache to elections officials statewide.

In response, Assemblymen Jim Patterson and Vince Fong have called for a halt to Motor Voter registrations until an independent audit is conducted.  Meanwhile, Secretary of State Padilla ordered that the DMV conduct additional reviews and increase scrutiny of voter registration applications before transferring the data to the Secretary of State’s office.

The latest scandal casts a shadow over the upcoming November 6 election.  Can voters really trust that the outcome of a very close election – of which there could potentially be many in the Golden State – are accurate because of these DMV voter registration snafus?  It also raises questions of just how secure the DMV’s voter registration process really is.  Roughly 1500 bogus voter registrations have been identified.  How many more might there be?

At the top of the list for California’s next governor and new legislature should be supporting an independent audit of the DMV by California’s nonpartisan State Auditor.  To be sure, the Department of Finance audit and other actions taken since the scandals came to light are steps in the right direction.  But we won’t know what really happened at the DMV, and won’t be able to take steps to fix the problems, until the State Auditor weighs in.

Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s communications director.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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