CT Republicans Want to Scale Back on ‘Motor Voter' Program

Republicans in Connecticut said they want to scale back the state's involvement with the federal law mandating that motor vehicle departments help with voter registration.

“We’re talking about a dramatic technology increase that is being used to register voters with a link to the Department of Motor Vehicles," said Sen. Mike McLalchlan.

Republicans want DMV to stop the ramp up for automated registration and updating with the Secretary of the State and instead have DMV customers fill out paper forms that the DMV would then mail to the Secretary of the State, who would then process them, and send them to the town registrar where it belongs.

The argument from Republicans is that DMV has had enough problems dealing with its computer upgrade, which has led to long lines.

“We would argue that DMV cannot handle more in the area of motor-voiter programs because they can’t get their own house in order" said Sen. Toni Boucher.

But, Connecticut has a recent problem with the "Motor Voter" law, as it's known.

The Department of Justice sent a letter to Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, a Democrat, earlier this year, saying the state wasn't in compliance and needed to change quickly.

After legislation to address the issue didn't go anywhere during the General Assmbly's Regular Session, Merrill determined she could make changes and upgrades without lawmakers' help.

“I really believe this is a much better, more efficient, more cost effective, more accurate system to help people register to vote at the DMV," she said, in response to the GOP complaints.

Her proposal would take effect by the middle of 2018 and would provide a cross-reference of computer databases between DMV drvier data and voter data. The information needed to register to vote is the same as that needed to get a license, and when that information changes as DMV, it could be changed with the Secretary of the State's database.

Merrill admits the system may not be perfect, but maintains it will work, and it won't be a large burden on DMV. Most importantly she said, it complies with the federal government and could fend off a lawsuit.

“In the short term we do need to comply with the federal law but in the longer term I think it behooves all of us to have a more technologically based system.”

Republicans said Merrill needs to scale it back and if they had it their way, the DMV would have no role in expanding voter registration.

Boucher said, "Their charge is not about registering voters. That is a core function of the Secretary of the State.”

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