Senator Bates Introduces Legislation to Fix Motor Voter Law

Monday, December 17, 2018

SACRAMENTO – Today, Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) introduced Senate Bill 57, which would allow individuals to opt-in for voter registration instead of automatically being registered to vote or having to opt-out of the program.  By returning the process to an opt-in, the transfer of inaccurate information leading to the registration of ineligible individuals is less likely because the individuals will maintain more control of their information and whether it is used for voter registration purposes.   

Under California’s current Motor Voter law, Assembly Bill 1461 requires the automatic transfer of voter registration information from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to the Secretary of State’s (SOS) office when registrants come in to obtain or renew their driver’s license or state ID card. In 2018, some voters experienced a situation where they were unaware that changes were made to their registration when information was transferred to the SOS. In other cases, the SOS received registration information of ineligible individuals, including non-citizens. AB 1461 was passed and signed into law in 2015.

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 maintains that Californians must have the opportunity to register to vote at the DMV. Senator Bates’ SB 57 allows Californians to voluntarily register themselves at the DMV by opting-in to the motor voter program.

During 2018, the DMV came under intense scrutiny after the media reported multiple problems with California’s motor voter program, including:

  • The latest story published in the Sacramento Bee on December 14, 2018 reported that the DMV director mishandled the registrations of more than 580 Californians who may have been wrongfully kept off the voter rolls in the 2018 election because of transmittal errors.  

  • In October 2018, the Los Angeles Times reported that the state agency mistakenly registered another 1,500 ineligible residents, including non-citizens. The Associated Press also reported that California’s Secretary of State admitted that he was not able to confirm whether or not non-citizens voted in the June Primary.

  • In September 2018, the Sacramento Bee reported that the DMV transmitted 23,000 erroneous voter registrations.

  • In May 2018, the Los Angeles Times reported that a software error affected 77,000 voter registrations.

“Enough is enough. I’ve been deeply troubled reading the media reports highlighting the failed motor voter program. I’ve also experienced the problem firsthand when I went to the DMV to renew my driver’s license in November. The information presented to DMV customers is unclear. I’m concerned as all Californians should be.

“SB 57 would return the motor voter law to its original form. The current program is confusing and is unable to properly operate. It is time to fix the problem,” said Senate Republican Leader Bates.