Applications That Don't Match EXACTLY With DMV Records are Automatically Dumped by New System!
California's League of Women Voters Sends Letter of Objection to Secretary of State
By Brad Friedman on 3/29/2006, 11:22am PT  

We've been dreading this. And you're not gonna like it either.

It's an entirely new can of worms in the Electronic Rape of American Electoral Democracy. The next wave --- beyond the electronic voting machines, and perhaps even more alarming --- in the arsenal of those out to game the system for partisan advantage.

No matter what we do, no matter how many successes, the Bad Guys --- those who hate Democracy and American Values --- are always one step ahead of us, it seems.

The horrifically written and, of course, ironically named "Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002" requires, as of January 1, 2006, each state to implement "a single, uniform, official, centralized, interactive computerized statewide voter registration list."

And guess who's writing the software for it, in California, Ohio and elsewhere? That's right...our old friends at Diebold, Inc.

While we've put off reporting on much of this until now --- as prompted by story out today (in the MSM of all places!) --- we've been working on an extremely disturbing part of this story for some time relating directly to all of this out in, you guessed it, Ohio. We've yet to run the story for a number of reasons. But we hope to have much more on it, in all its troubling detail, in the not-too-distant future.

For today, however, we'll stick to the report coming out of California in this morning's Los Angeles Times which says that, since the first of year, when California's new computerized Voter Registration Database has gone state-wide, Los Angeles County has "rejected 14,629 people --- 43% of those who registered from Jan. 1 to March 15."

The rejections occur, amongst other reasons, due to failures of exact matching between voter applications and the state's motor vehicle registration (DMV) database to which they are now auto-magically compared. So, if a voter registers (or re-registers after moving to a new location) as "Brad Friedman" but has "Bradley Friedman" on his driver's license, he'll be auto-kicked out of the voter registration system and may not find out until he shows up at the polls on Election Day! That is, if he even knows where to show up since he may no longer receive sample ballots and poll location information etc. in the mail!...

Jacqueline Jacobberger, the president of the League of Women Voters in California sent a letter yesterday (posted in full at the end of this article) to California's Sec. of State Bruce McPherson --- who is credited in the LA Times story as being behind the design and installation of the new system --- objecting to the new Voter Registration Database and the way it's being implemented.

In her letter, Jacobberger writes: "We must object. Our procedures should guard against inappropriate elimination of legitimate voters from the system. It is not enough to allow them to cast a provisional ballot if they make it to the polls. Being excluded from the registration list means that they will not receive a sample ballot or a ballot pamphlet, they will not receive notice of the location of their polling places, and they will not be permitted to request an absentee ballot."

She goes on to explain to McPherson that the comparison between databases was meant, by HAVA, to "supplement the information provided by voters when they register or re-register, thereby helping to correct an application so it can be processed and accepted, if the applicant is eligible, instead of rejected." (emphasis in original)

Whether or not that's what HAVA's authors (hello, Bob Ney) actually meant when they included that provision is another matter. We'll associate ourselves with Jacobberger's optimistic interpretation for the moment.

With a Special Election scheduled to replace the disgraced, convicted and resigned Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham in San Diego just weeks away on April 11, the race to correct the problem somehow is even more accute. The rest of the state has primaries in June and even that timeline will likely be hard to meet if all of the "errors" are to be corrected.

U.S. Congressional Candidate Marcy Winograd, who is running in that primary to unseat right-leaning Democrat Rep. Jane Harman in California's 36th District released a statement today expressing concern as well. "If I register to vote as Marcy Winograd and my DMV application reads Marcy A. Winograd, I may not be able to vote for myself in this congressional race," said Winograd.

According to the Times, "McPherson's office plans to launch a campaign in April to educate Californians about the new registration rules." Winograd is not impressed.

"Before investing time, energy, and taxpayer money into this misguided education program," she said, "McPherson should acknowledge the potential for disaster and scrap the program altogether."

State Sen. Debra Bowen, who has been a long-time champion concerning issues of Electoral Integrity and Transparency in this state as chair of the State Senate's election committee is also running against McPherson for Sec. of State this year. She warns that "We're looking at the potential for thousands and thousands of people to lose the right to vote."

According to the LA Times coverage today...

SACRAMENTO --- Thousands of Californians who register to vote or update their records may not receive sample ballots or be able to vote as absentees because of the state's new method of verifying identities, election officials say.

A new statewide database designed by Secretary of State Bruce McPherson to authenticate voter registrations has blocked otherwise valid registrations because of computer glitches, slight discrepancies in spelling or incomplete applications.

The problems have required registrars to contact voters --- a time-consuming process that is already taxing some counties facing elections next month.

San Diego County is racing to rectify rejected registrations in time for the April 11 special election to fill the seat vacated by convicted Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham.
...
The new database system was installed to meet the requirements of the Help America Vote Act, the 2002 federal law designed to avoid the voting irregularities cited in the 2000 presidential race.
...
Voter information is checked against records with the federal government and state motor vehicles department. Under an agreement negotiated by McPherson and the U.S. Justice Department, California is one of nine states that use the standard of an "exact match," in which the records must be the same to the letter, according to a national survey by the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonprofit group in New York City. Thus, "Robert Smith" and "Rob Smith" would not be considered a match.

Ashley Snee Giovannettone, spokeswoman for McPherson, who oversees elections, said a sampling of statewide registrations found that 74% were immediately verified.

As usual, McPherson's spokesholes (where do they find these people?!) will say anything in attempt to polish McP's turds. Even if Giovannettone's comment is taken at face value, it means that 26% of all statewide registrations have been rejected by the new system!

...And once again, it's the voter --- who has done absolutely nothing wrong --- who gets screwed in the bargain:

Elaine Ginnold, Alameda County's acting registrar of voters, said she doubts her county will be able to ratify all rejected registrations submitted near the deadline.

"These are errors that are not the fault of the voters and not related to voters' eligibility," said Wendy Weiser, a deputy director at the Brennan Center. "They should not prevent voters from being able to cast votes that count."

As mentioned, we'll have much more on all of this new Voter Registration Database mess...much more....not that we're happy about it...in the near future.

The complete letter from, Jacqueline Jacobberger, the president of California's League of Women Voters to Secretary of State Bruce McPherson follows...


LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF CALIFORNIA
801 12th Street, Suite 220, Sacramento, California 95814
(916) 442-7215 P Fax (916) 442-7362
Web site: www.lwvc.org E-mail: lwvc@lwvc.org

March 28, 2006

The Honorable Bruce McPherson
Secretary of State of California
1500 11th Street
Sacramento, California 95814

Dear Secretary McPherson:

The League of Women Voters of California is concerned that under new state procedures for adding registered voters to the CalVoter state database, it appears that a large number of registrations are being inappropriately rejected.

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 requires each state to implement, by January 1, 2006, "a single, uniform, official, centralized, interactive computerized statewide voter registration list." Recognizing that the state of California would not have such a database in place by that deadline, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the California Secretary of State entered into a memorandum of agreement to update and use the existing CalVoter registration system for HAVA compliance. Emergency regulations were adopted by the Secretary of State to implement that memorandum.

Judging from statistics compiled since the first of this year for Los Angeles County, most of the rejected registrations and re-registrations fall into one of two categories. One type of problem occurs when individuals provide a driver's license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number (SSN) on their registration form, but their name or birth date is not exactly the same as in the DMV records. Another type of problem occurs when individuals do not provide a driver's license number or the last four digits of their SSN on the registration form although their other information can be matched with DMV or other state agency records.

Since many registrations are in fact re-registrations prompted by a voter's change of address, party, etc., many of these individuals have already been on the voter registration rolls in California. However, in both types of situation, the current system does not allow any of those individuals to be included in the statewide registration list.

We must object. Our procedures should guard against inappropriate elimination of legitimate voters from the system. It is not enough to allow them to cast a provisional ballot if they make it to the polls. Being excluded from the registration list means that they will not receive a sample ballot or a ballot pamphlet, they will not receive notice of the location of their polling places, and they will not be permitted to request an absentee ballot.

We hope that a resolution to this problem can be reached quickly. We urge you to find alternatives to the current rules (data standards and match criteria) for processing registrations. If possible, that would be done by administrative procedures available to you. However, if it proves that legislation is needed, the LWVC would support that approach.

Under HAVA, it is intended that information provided by other databases, such as DMV data, will supplement the information provided by voters when they register or re-register, thereby helping to correct an application so it can be processed and accepted, if the applicant is eligible, instead of rejected.

It is a well-known problem that mistakes are made in database administration and management. Applicants transpose or forget numbers and letters, and make other noncritical errors as well. Officials likewise inadvertently make data entry errors. Databases themselves maintain these errors over time, compounding problems if databases are compared and matched with each other.

A well-run system will use the wide variety of information that is available from a number of sources to make corrections in order to maintain an accurate system. If, for example, the applicant transposes digits in his or her driver's license number, as evidenced by the driver's license record, a correction is made and the application is processed.

The corollary is that a failure to match the applicant or his/her data with another database must not result in the rejection of the applicant. This is important for a variety of reasons. First, matching is not an eligibility requirement under HAVA or state law. Second, the database information is likely to have significant errors. The Social Security Administration acknowledges that its data is not foolproof, data entry and other errors in DMV and voter registration agencies are well known, and simple matching mistakes---from the use of different forms of names to transposed or missing numbers---are significant. Third, the absence of information does not suggest a problem. Only positive information of a disqualifying characteristic should result in the rejection of a voter in a database matching system. Rejection must be based on a positive match of the identity of the voter, and a positive match with a disqualifying characteristic.

In the voter registration context, the failure to find a match does not provide information that the voter is ineligible. If there is no match, the voter registration application should be processed on its own terms.

If the applicant is eligible to vote, then his or her name should be entered on the list. If necessary, the applicant can be placed on a "pending" list of individuals who receive the normal election materials and services but must provide identification (if a first-time voter) or swear to his or her identity in order to cast a normal ballot.

Uniform and nondiscriminatory practices are important for any process concerning the registration of voters. We must not go into this election season burdened by processes that disenfranchise voters.

Sincerely,

Jacqueline Jacobberger
President