Error Results in Improperly Registered Voters in California

As secretary of state calls for audit, Department of Motor Vehicles officials say number might be as high as 1,500

A glitch in California’s automatic voter registration system may have resulted in thousands of noncitizens being placed on the state’s voter rolls.

KTLA-TV in Los Angeles reported Monday that the California Department of Motor Vehicles admitted that about 1,500 people may have been improperly registered to vote because of an “administrative processing error.”

One of those improperly registered voters, a legal permanent resident from Canada, told the Los Angeles Times that he realized he was not supposed to vote.

“When I saw that card, I just threw it out,” said the man, Randall Marquis. “I know I’m not going to vote. I’m not allowed to vote. It’s stupid that I should be registered to vote.”

Logan Churchwell, a spokesman for the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), told LifeZette the report likely vastly understates the problem. He said the period covered in Monday’s report does not date back to 2015, when the state’s automatic registration law took effect.

“I know I’m not going to vote. I’m not allowed to vote. It’s stupid that I should be registered to vote.”

“It’s worth noting it’s looking at a specific period of time … We’re only talking about a few months,” he said.

PILF has obtained records in multiple states documenting noncitizen voters by tracking green card holders who end up on the rolls and then voluntarily come forward and ask to be removed. In some cases, according to records, those noncitizens have cast ballots in elections.

PILF has uncovered similar evidence in California. In August, the group put out a report showing voter registration records included 264 noncitizens on the rolls in San Diego County, 28 in San Francisco County, and six in Riverside County.

But Churchwell said uncovering the records has been much harder in the Golden State than elsewhere.

Related: Study Details Thousands of Illegal Voters in ‘Sanctuaries’

“The trouble we had in California is [that] the secretary of state there, [Alex] Padilla, is obviously hostile to PILF,” he said.

While noncitizens have ended up on the rolls throughout the country, California poses a special problem, Churchwell said.

DMV Director Jean Shiomoto and California Department of Technology Director Amy Tong notified the secretary of state about the issue in a Monday letter, according to KTLA-TV.

It comes on the heels of an admission that the DMV may have botched about 23,000 voter registrations due to a separate error.

“I remain deeply frustrated and disappointed that persistent errors by the DMV and CDT have undermined public confidence,” Padilla wrote in a letter calling for an audit.

The Los Angeles Times ripped the state in an editorial this week, demanding accountability for the “dysfunctional” DMV.

“This news would be troubling anytime, but with less than two months before the midterm elections — and just weeks before vote-by-mail ballots go out — it’s particularly poor timing,” the newspaper wrote. “Californians should be able to vote without worrying that the rolls are inaccurate.”

Churchwell said California anticipated nonvoters would end up on the voter rolls when it passed the automatic voter registration law. Immigrant advocacy organizations and the American Civil Liberties Union initially opposed the measure out of concern it would expose immigrants to potential criminal liability.

Lawmakers added a provision requiring noncitizens who vote or attempt to vote as a result of the law to be “presumed to have acted with official authorization and shall not be guilty of fraudulently voting or attempting to vote” unless they act “willfully.”

Churchwell said it is extremely difficult to prove that a noncitizen votes intentionally and not out of an erroneous understanding of the law.

“There’s plenty of opportunity for mistakes to be made,” he said.