The San Diego County Registrar of Voters Office in Kearny Mesa, June 4, 2018.
The San Diego County Registrar of Voters Office in Kearny Mesa, June 4, 2018. (Megan Wood/inewsource)

The Secretary of State’s Office has canceled 123 voter registration records in San Diego County that the California Department of Motor Vehicles accidentally created as part of a new Motor Voter program.

Why this matters

Accurate voter registration records are vital for fair and honest elections.

County Registrar Michael Vu told inewsource the Secretary of State’s Office notified him that the county was affected by the DMV errors announced this week and to cancel the registrations.

The 123 people wrongly registered in San Diego County were among 1,500 the DMV said on Monday it inadvertently registered in the state even though they weren’t eligible to vote.

The mistake follows an announcement from the DMV last month that a separate issue resulted in 23,000 errors in voter records across the state. Vu confirmed that San Diego County was also affected by that breach, but he declined to provide details.

Those errors resulted from technicians toggling between screens and improperly merging multiple registrations. About 4,600 of the people affected were signed up to vote even though they did not intend to register.

A DMV spokeswoman said on Thursday the California Department of Finance will conduct an independent review of the Motor Voter program as part of an ongoing audit of the DMV. Earlier in the week, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, the state’s chief elections officer, said he was considering freezing the program until the problems were resolved.

To prevent false registrations from happening in the future, the DMV is taking “additional quality control measures,” the DMV spokeswoman said, though she did not elaborate on what those measures are.

Under the Motor Voter program, which took effect in April, the DMV automatically registers eligible voters when they update their driver’s licenses, state I.D. cards or addresses. The program’s goal is to increase the number of registered voters.

More than 19 million people are registered to vote in California, including 1.7 million in San Diego County, so the number of incorrect registrations that have occurred under Motor Voter are small.

Concerned voters can check their registration status on the secretary of state’s website.

The DMV has faced bad publicity this year beyond the Motor Voter mistakes. On Sept. 21, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered an audit of the agency after months of complaints about long wait times and software issues.

The DMV says the delays are the result of the new federal Real ID program, which requires the state to update driver’s licenses and state I.D. cards by 2020 in order to pass airport security. The new licenses can’t be issued by mail.

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The agency has increased staffing and expanded its hours to reduce wait times, but California’s Republican politicians have seized on the DMV issues on the campaign trail.

John Cox, a Republican and Rancho Santa Fe businessman, has made the issues part of his campaign for governor. He is the longshot candidate facing Democrat Gavin Newsom, the former San Francisco mayor, in the Nov. 6 election.

“That is what I’m going to run this race on, is the forgotten Californians. … The people that get up every single day, that take off a full day of work to go to the DMV. The people who are struggling,” Cox said at a San Diego County Republican Party gathering in August.

Newsom has called the DMV a disgrace that must be fixed.


We’ll let you know when big things happen.

Jill Castellano is a former investigative data coordinator for inewsource. When she's not deep in a spreadsheet or holed up reporting and writing her next story, she's probably hiking, running or rock climbing. She also loves playing board games and discussing the latest chapters with her book club....

Nicole Tyau was an intern at inewsource. To contact inewsource with questions, tips or corrections, email