A poll worker hands out stickers at the San Ysidro Library on Election Day, Nov. 6, 2018.
A poll worker hands out stickers at the San Ysidro Library on Election Day, Nov. 6, 2018. (Megan Wood/inewsource)

San Diego County voters will be sent a notice this fall to double check the status of their registration following problems last year with California’s “motor voter” program that led to nearly 84,000 duplicate voter records statewide.

Why this matters

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

Registrar Michael Vu told inewsource that counties throughout the state have been stuck “pouring additional resources in” to fix issues associated with the new automated program the Department of Motor Vehicles launched in April 2018. Its goal was to increase voter registration and boost election turnouts.

Vu said he doesn’t know yet how much it will cost to send the mailer to the county’s 1.8 million voters, but he’s doing it to ensure they don’t experience problems when they go to the polls for the March 2020 primary.

“At the end of the day, we want the robust turnouts,” Vu said. “We want people, our citizens, to participate in each and every election and be eligible, but it has to be also equally balanced out with the administrative tasks, the readiness of the system that is going to be implemented.”

San Diego County residents are shown outside the Registrar of Voters Office in Kearny Mesa on Nov. 5, 2018. (Megan Wood/inewsource)

For more than two decades, California’s DMV participated in the national “motor voter” program that let its customers register to vote by filling out extra paperwork.

But the new program started last year automatically registers people who are getting new or updated driver’s licenses unless they opt out — no extra paperwork required. The rollout was dogged with problems and led to the state paying $417,700 for an independent audit of “motor voter” that was released earlier this month.

How to check your voter registration

If you want to check your voter registration status before the Registrar of Voters Office sends its mailer, you can click here.

You’ll be asked for your house number, date of birth and ZIP code.

Auditors looked at the first five months of the program and found the Secretary of State’s Office, which is in charge of elections, and the DMV did a poor job coordinating the effort.

Among the findings: Software used by each agency was incompatible with the other; DMV customers didn’t understand why they were being asked about voter registration; and DMV workers weren’t trained to know answers to questions like, “If I’m on parole am I still eligible to register?” (The answer, by the way, is no — parolees can’t vote.)

Of the nearly 84,000 voter registrations that were sent twice to the secretary of state, 7,183 were in San Diego County. When this happened, the second copy replaced the first one.

County registrars also had to deal with ineligible people registering to vote. In San Diego County, 583 registrations have been canceled for this reason since the new “motor voter” program began, a Secretary of State’s Office spokeswoman said.

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Lauren J. Mapp was a reporting intern at inewsource. To contact inewsource with tips, suggestions or corrections, please email contact [at] inewsource [dot] org.