California DMV may have botched 23,000 voter registrations

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Department of Motor Vehicles says agency technicians may have botched about 23,000 Californians’ voter registrations under the state’s new “motor voter” law, according to a letter Wednesday from the department.

The DMV sent the secretary of state’s office incorrect information for some voters, according to the letter DMV Director Jean Shiomoto and Department of Technology Director Amy Tong sent Secretary of State Alex Padilla. The department says the errors mostly affected customers’ vote-by-mail, language and political party selections.

The agency says it will send letters to affected voters so they can correct their information. The affected voters are scattered around the state, officials said.

The error did not allow anyone living in the country without authorization to register to vote, the Department of Motor Vehicles said.

“I am extremely disappointed and deeply frustrated that DMV’s administrative error caused inaccurate voter registration data to be transmitted to elections officials,” Padilla said in a statement. “The DMV has assured us that they have taken necessary actions to prevent this from occurring again.”

California’s motor voter law letting residents automatically register to vote took effect in April. People registered or updated their voter registration about 1.4 million times through Aug. 5, the department said.

The news comes as the DMV faces backlash for long waits at some of its offices that spurred public outcry and prompted hearings last month in the state Legislature.

Wait times improved by an average of 30 minutes statewide between July and August, the agency reported to lawmakers Wednesday.

DMV officials say they have hired more staff and brought back retired workers to speed up transactions. They blamed new technology, the new motor voter law and federal security standards known as Real ID for the delays.

Shiomoto called the wait times unacceptable when testifying at the hearings. She vowed to fix the problem.

The agency says customers without an appointment spent an average of 100 minutes waiting during the week ending Aug. 25.

Wait times vary significantly, from a low of three minutes for customers with an appointment in Napa or Fall River Mills to a high of 158 minutes for walk-ins in West Covina.

Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, a Republican from the San Francisco Bay Area, says reports she’s heard from her constituents and staffers who have visited DMV offices in her district don’t align with the rosier picture painted by the agency.

“I have zero confidence in the numbers we’re receiving from the DMV,” she said. “It was apparent in not one but two hearings they had no reliable way to assess the scope of their own wait-time problem.”

The Real ID standards were passed in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks and require new ID cards to carry special markings.

After Oct. 1, 2020, airport security checkpoints won’t accept non-compliant cards. Californians must apply for new cards in person at DMV offices.

Lawmakers have given the DMV millions of dollars in additional funding to accommodate higher demand as Californians update their licenses to comply with the security requirement.

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By SOPHIA BOLLAG
Associated Press

AP writer Jonathan J. Cooper contributed to this report.

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