The DMV Has A Terrible Track Record Of Handling Voter Registration

Joanne W. Young Managing Partner, Kirstein & Young
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If you are like most Americans, something inevitably goes wrong when you visit the Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”). It is almost a rite of passage on your way to becoming a legal driver in the United States. Yet, the left wants to give them even more power through a new liberal notion called automatic voter registration, with the predictable result of disaster — this time, disenfranchising voters.

The DMV has been handling voter registrations for years under the National Voter Registration Act. The federal Motor Voter law requires all states to offer voter registration when citizens apply for driver’s licenses. However, as many recently disenfranchised voters have come to realize, despite the DMV’s years of experience, it is not very good at handling voter registrations.

In Arizona, many voters appear to have lost their “party affiliation” despite continuous periods of consistent voting, due to a DMV error when the voters updated their addresses. In Texas, the Department of Public Safety appears to have “lost” some voter registrations, which has resulted in litigation against the state. The horror stories continue in Florida, where a Palm Beach County commissioner says hundreds of ballots in the closed presidential primary may be thrown out because of a DMV error that dropped voters’ party affiliation.

The DMV’s errors disenfranchise voters and decrease voter confidence, and yet the left wants to increase its power.  

If states follow the Oregon model of automatic voter registration, a voter who is automatically registered through the DMV is not affiliated with a party unless and until the voter returns a postcard declaring his or her party affiliation. A person who did not previously take action to register to vote must take a proactive step to be affiliated with a party. Without party affiliation, the recently registered voter quickly becomes disenfranchised in Oregon’s closed primaries. Potentially over half a million need to take the extra step or be disenfranchised in the most interesting and important Democrat and Republican primaries in generations. This frustrates the purpose of automatically registering voters and turns automatic voter registration into an exercise in futility and a waste of taxpayer money.

Whether through DMV errors or the organization of an automatic voter registration system, the risk of voter disenfranchisement in closed primaries is substantial. Given that there is no proof that automatic voter registration helps increase voter participation (voter participation actually went down when Canada adopted it), states should focus on fixing the existing system that is supposed to help voters register and update their registrations, instead of rushing into automatic voter registration.

Unlike acquiring an identification card or driver’s license from the DMV, a process that everyone understands, it is much harder to explain needing to register twice: once automatically and once with a party. Ironically the left, which always claims to be interested in making voting easier, is making it harder to vote in contested primaries.

So why does the left support voter automatic voter registration? Generally primaries only affect one class of politicians: incumbents. Without an effective primary system, many incumbents will only face one election a season, instead of the two they would under the current voting system. Under automatic voter registration there are fewer worries for incumbents. However, by registering more voters, including many who have no intention or interest in voting, it is much easier to commit vote fraud in a general election. Once a fraudulent vote is counted, it cannot be uncounted. Someone who was not going to vote and was automatically registered is not going to discover the fraud.  

Issues with the DMV handling voter registrations this election season have proven that automatic voter registration is a seriously flawed proposition that actually disenfranchises some primary voters. There is no replacement for voter motivation and simply increasing the number of “registered voters” on paper does nothing to address issue of voter turnout at the polls.