DMV Failed to Submit 589 Voter Registrations Before Midterm Election, the Latest in String of Errors

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California DMV Director Jean Shiomoto is seen in a photo tweeted by the agency on Nov. 19, 2014.
California DMV Director Jean Shiomoto is seen in a photo tweeted by the agency on Nov. 19, 2014.

California’s secretary of state called Friday for new leadership at the state’s embattled Department of Motor Vehicles after revelations of an error that could have prevented nearly 600 people from voting last month.

DMV Director Jean Shiomoto told Secretary of State Alex Padilla in a letter that the agency mistakenly failed to transmit 589 voter records before the Nov. 6 election. A DMV spokesman said Shiomoto had already told staff she plans to retire by the end of the year.

It’s the latest in a string of DMV errors related to rolling out the “motor voter” program that automatically registers eligible people who visit the department. In October, the DMV said about 1,500 people may have been incorrectly registered, perhaps including non-citizens. It also faced an audit over hourslong wait times.

Of the 589 people whose voter information was not transmitted, 329 were registering to vote and 260 were trying to change their address, Shiomoto said.

The records arrived at the DMV after the Oct. 22 voter registration deadline but were either postmarked or signed before it, meaning they still should have been eligible. But the agency did not send those records to the secretary of state until Nov. 30, Shiomoto said.

“This pause was due to a misunderstanding on the part of the department, for which we take responsibility,” Shiomoto wrote.

Padilla called on Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom to appoint new leadership, saying in a Friday letter that “the director of the DMV has lost my confidence and trust.”

His office is looking into whether the affected voters tried to cast provisional ballots, which are counted after they are verified, and if so, whether those ballots were rejected.

The small number of affected voters across the nation’s most populous state means no election outcomes were affected, Shiomoto said. Padilla did not directly address that in his response letter.

His spokesman, Sam Mahood, said Padilla didn’t know Shiomoto already planned to resign.

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