When West Virginia lawmakers voted to push back implementation of the state’s automatic “motor voter” registration in 2017, and again earlier this year, the primary reason both times was the Division of Motor Vehicles’ ability to compile and transmit the registration data.
In February, then-acting DMV commissioner Linda Ellis told the Senate Judiciary Committee that her agency needed more time to update its computer systems to be able to compile voter registration information and accurately get that information to the Secretary of State’s office.
“It’s a mechanical issue for us, and a financial issue,” Ellis said in support of a second two-year delay in implementing the program.
But on Tuesday, just seven months later, current acting DMV commissioner Adam Holley told legislators, “The DMV is in full compliance with the collection of data for motor voter. We’re collecting all of the data and submitting it to the Secretary of State’s Office.”
What explains the dramatic change?
“We all sort of went back to the drawing board to figure out what we could improve,” Holley said Thursday. “We found some other ways to transmit that information.
He said the DMV decided to “piggyback” on the national Electronic Registration Information Center to transmit registration data to the secretary of state. ERIC is a national system that voter registration offices use to compare and verify data on people registering to vote or changing their registrations.
That resolved issues the DMV was having with motor voter registration data not transmitting to the Secretary of State’s Office, Holley said. While that information was not lost, the data had to be resent, and some voters had to cast provisional ballots in the 2018 general election.
The Secretary of State’s Office cited those errors in a report to the Legislature this week, but it concurred that the “aforementioned systematic errors have been investigated and resolved.”
In that report, the office stated that it will need until June 2020 to develop and program $1.5 million in upgrades to its Statewide Voter Registrations System to electronically transmit motor voter registrations to county clerks. Currently, clerks have to manually input that data.
Drivers have had the option to register to vote at DMV offices for years. Automatic motor voter registration requires drivers to opt out, if they don’t wish to be registered to vote.
While the DMV has other technical issues to address, including the need to eventually replace a 30-year-old mainframe computer, Holley said he believes the issues with motor voter have been resolved on the DMV’s side.
“People are getting registered to vote at the DMV,” he said. “We’ve registered a lot of people over the years.”