Legislative changes proposed for problems with California voter registry

In response to the reports of a high rejection rate for California’s statewide voter registration database, California Secretary of State McPherson is now proposing legislative changes to ease the matching problem now seen with the existing database and procedures. This is according to a story in this morning’s Los Angeles Times, which only gives the following details of the proposed procedural changes: “The changes McPherson proposes would allow people onto election rolls even if they did not provide a driver’s license number, as long as the statewide database could locate the number through the Department of Motor Vehicles.”

Today’s Sacramento Bee also has brief mention of McPherson’s legislative idea: “McPherson says he wants to change the current law so voters who forget to include their license number don’t have to be contacted by the local elections office as long as the rest of the information is valid and complete.” What is unclear is whether this change is consistent with the Department of Justice’s agreement with California over the existing statewide voter registration process, and we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

The Sacramento Bee story today also had data from other counties in the state regarding the extent of matching problems in some counties:

Sacramento County election officials say 2,100 of roughly 600,000 registrations have been affected by the new requirement.

El Dorado County officials say 127 out of an estimated 100,000 registrations are pending.

And while Yolo County uploaded its estimated 90,000 voter registrations with the state in January, it’s unclear how many cases weren’t accepted.

A sampling of submissions from the beginning of the year showed that 74 percent were verified, 25 percent required verification – either because the person didn’t include a license or Social Security number or because the numbers didn’t match what the state had on record – and 1 percent was due to system errors.

In response to the rejections, Sacramento County has been mailing letters to affected voters telling them they will be able to vote provisionally in the upcoming June primary, while El Dorado County has been working to contact affected voters by telephone.

Another detail that was reported in the Sacramento Bee story was that Sacramento County has had to hire two temporary employees to deal with problem registration requests.

Clearly, California will be a state to watch in early June, as it is unclear how the statewide voter registration process is going to perform when it is stressed before what might be a highly competitive statewide primary election.