With the heightened awareness about voting security in the U.S., the recent news that the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles is losing up to 20 voter registrations a day is disheartening.
The problem, according to Donald Kersey, general counsel for Secretary of State Mac Warner, is this has been going on since the 2018 general election when “dozens of people” said they had registered to vote at their local DMV office. However, the Secretary of State — the body that handles elections in our state — said they had no record of such voter registrations.
So, how does the DMV become involved in voter registration in the first place? It goes back to 2016 when the legislature passed automatic voter registration to allow motorists to automatically register to vote when they got their driver’s license.
As the law was written, drivers would not opt in for the registration service, but instead, they would opt out, if they did not want to register to vote.
In other words, the state has had two years to get it right. However, in this year’s legislative session, lawmakers were forced to hold hearings asking why automatic voter registration had not begun yet.
The best reason the state can give at this point is blaming the snafu on an old computer server.
During a Senate Judiciary hearing, Linda Ellis, deputy DMV commissioner said, the problem likely lies within an old mainframe computer that is at least 26 years old, the same number of years she has worked in the DMV.
The worst part about this is that state officials cannot really pinpoint how long this voter registration problem has been going on.
Kersey said, according to his research, the DMV could be losing between 10 and 20 voter registrations a day. He went on to say that if automatic voter registration had actually gone into effect, the number of lost voter registrations would actually be higher.
It’s time for Charleston to stop the fingerpointing, roll up its sleeves and find out what this is all about. Voters need solutions, not lip service.
And the state cannot place all of its hope in a new IT vendor to get it right, either.
Kersey did say, however, that the counties are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing in handling voter registrations that come from the DMV. Again, he pointed out how the problem lies with the DMV.
Kersey is convinced that the Secretary of State’s office is not getting all of the records it’s supposed to be getting from the DMV.
He said the lost number of voter registrations may grow exponentially when automatic registration is actually put in place.
The only advice he could give was for voters to double check with their county clerk to verify whether they received the voter registration.
West Virginians deserve better than this. And the instituition of voting — the very thing men and women have died to protect — deserves the utmost care and concern.