California

DMV delay may have kept hundreds of Californians from voting

DMV audit would redirect resources from cutting wait times, director says

In a budget hearing on Tuesday, August 7, DMV Director Jean Shiomoto expressed opposition to a potential audit of the department, calling the proposal a “strain” on resources that would detract focus from reducing wait times.
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In a budget hearing on Tuesday, August 7, DMV Director Jean Shiomoto expressed opposition to a potential audit of the department, calling the proposal a “strain” on resources that would detract focus from reducing wait times.

Several hundred Californians may have been wrongfully kept off the voter rolls in the last election because of transmittal errors, according to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

The DMV announced in a letter Friday that it had discovered 589 records of people “who may have attempted to vote but whose vote may have been rejected.”

“People who wanted to be registered were not registered on time,” said Armando Botello, spokesman for the DMV.

Botello noted it’s possible some of the Californians cast ballots through same-day registration, while others may have had no desire to vote in the first place.

DMV Director Jean Shiomoto told Secretary of State Alex Padilla the mistake was a delay in transmitting information between their two offices prior to the close of the Oct. 22 registration deadline.

“The pause was due to a misunderstanding on the part of the (DMV), for which we take responsibility,” Shiomoto wrote to Padilla.

Padilla on Friday sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom urging them to “appoint new leadership” because of the delay and other registration-related errors.

“The director of the DMV has lost my confidence and trust,” Padilla wrote.

This is not the first issue DMV has faced implementing the Motor Voter program, which launched earlier this year to automatically register people when they visit the DMV.

The department reported 23,000 registration errors in September. The following month, the DMV said about 1,500 customers may have been improperly registered to vote, including non-citizens.

The Bee filed a complaint this month asking Padilla’s office to release records of internal communications about the Motor Voter program that are currently being withheld.

Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, says the latest example of the DMV potentially preventing 589 Californians from voting is evidence the agency should stay out of the business of registering voters.

“Voter registration should be readily available,” Patterson said. “There’s nothing inherently wrong with Motor Voter. With that being said, it only works if the systems are trustworthy. We’re getting additional information that that trustworthiness is getting tested.”

Gov. Brown signed the law creating the program in 2015, aiming to boost registration. Democrats typically perform better in elections when more people vote.

Padilla’s office certified the Nov. 6 election results on Friday morning, just hours before it received the DMV’s letter. The DMV said the outcomes of races were not compromised.

“Based on the small number and distribution by county of these registrations, no election results certified by the Secretary of State were affected.”

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