California DMV Fails at Voter Registration; Lawsuit Possible

February 5, 2015 | | KQED |

It’s been more than two decades since Congress passed the so-called Motor Voter Act requiring state DMVs to let residents register to vote at their offices — but the ACLU of California says the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles is falling asleep at the wheel, and it’s threatening to sue.

The civil rights organization is filing a complaint Thursday with Secretary of State Alex Padilla on behalf of three Californians as well as four organizations: the League of Women Voters of California, the National Council of La Raza, California Common Cause and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.

The complaint, a precursor to a lawsuit, alleges the DMV makes it unnecessarily difficult to register to vote, and that even when people do bother to file a voter registration application with the state agency, they don’t always end up on the voter rolls.

Stuart Naifeh, a lawyer at the nonprofit organization Demos, which is working with the ACLU on the case, said California isn’t the only state that has failed to adequately implement the motor voter law — but its shortcomings do “offer a stark example of some of the things we have seen that are wrong.”