California DMV: Non-Citizens May Be Registered to Vote

SACRAMENTO — At least one non-citizen and perhaps many more were improperly registered to vote in California by the Department of Motor Vehicles, prompting the secretary of state to demand a new investigation of the embattled agency Monday.

The DMV said about 1,500 people may have been incorrectly registered between April 23 and Sept. 25 because of a "processing error." That includes legal residents who are not citizens, although the DMV says none of the people mistakenly registered are people living in the country illegally.

Incorrect registrations will be canceled by the secretary of state, DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez said.

DMV Director Jean Shiomoto and California Department of Technology Director Amy Tong notified the secretary of state about the problem in a Monday letter. It's the latest issue the department has reported with its new "motor voter" registration system. Last month, the department announced it may have botched about 23,000 voter registrations because of a separate error.

In the letter, Shiomoto explained:

"This error occurred when DMV technicians processed customer requests at field offices to change voter eligibility responses on driver license applications … On September 26, DMV implemented a scheduled IT upgrade replacing its driver license application system. This new upgrade has prevented the reoccurrence of this error."

The DMV discovered the errors after the Los Angeles Times inquired about a Canadian who was incorrectly registered, the paper reported. The green card holder contacted the Times after he was mistakenly registered when he tried to replace his driver's license at the DMV, the paper reported.

Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, has been a vocal critic about the DMV and its leadership.

"One of the most important things that belong to the people of California is their right to vote and their voter registration. And we just can’t trust the DMV any longer to register people to vote," Patterson said.

So far this year, there have been more than 100,000 customers affected by DMV voter registration software issues.

The Fresno area assemblyman is asking for large-scale changes, like new DMV leadership at the highest level.

"We can’t trust the same individuals who messed this up to go and fix it," Patterson said.

Patterson is also asking for a shut down of all DMV motor vehicle voter operations and an independent audit.

California's Secretary of State Alex Padilla seemed to agree with Patterson's plea, calling for a third-party audit in a response to the DMV, adding:

"I remain deeply frustrated and disappointed that persistent errors by the DMV and CDT have undermined public confidence in our basic responsibility to collect registration information."

Patterson still believes Padilla should have acted sooner.

"Finally coming to his senses and saying we have to have an independent audit," he said.

The department is working quickly to fix the problem, Shiomoto said.

California's motor voter law letting residents automatically register to vote took effect in April. Since then, people have newly registered or updated their voter registration more than a million times. The new law is aimed at making it easier for people to register and boosting voter turnout.

Early voting for the Nov. 6 election began Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.