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A Word on Registering to Vote at the MVA

Rosalind Helderman

State elections officials continue to try to dispel misinformation before Tuesday's vote. One issue that may cause confusion: Some Maryland residents who think they registered to vote through the state's Motor Vehicle Administration did not complete the required two-step process to do so and will not be able to cast ballots Tuesday, elections officials say.

Ross Goldstein, Maryland's deputy elections administrator, explained that there are likely some residents who believe they are registered because they told MVA workers that they wanted to do but are not registered because they never filled out a card given to them to finish the process.

Goldstein said the elections board sent letters to such drivers over the summer to urge them to register to vote. But not everyone who received the letter responded.

The problem, he said, is that the MVA and the Board of Elections use separate information databases. That means MVA workers are unable to automatically update registration information for voters. Instead, intake officers ask drivers if they wish to register to vote. Those who answer "yes" are given a card to fill out and return to MVA workers, who then mail the registration cards to the Board of Elections. Some drivers did not fill out the cards, he said, and therefore were never registered, despite having told MVA workers they wanted to do so.

"What happens to a lot of people is they tell [MVA] 'yes,' and then they don't pay attention to the other papers," Goldstein said. "They don't realize there's another step to the process."

Likewise, residents who changed their address or performed other MVA transactions online and clicked a box on the website indicating they wanted their voter registration to updated still had to fill out a card that was sent to them in the mail. If they ignored the card, their registration information would not have been changed.

Goldstein said the Maryland State Board of Elections made a "huge effort" to alert voters who might have thought they registered or changed their voter address through the MVA but did not. Over the summer, the board sent letters to more than 100,000 drivers who had interacted with the MVA from Jan. 1, 2007 to Aug. 15, 2008 and whose voter information did not match their MVA records. The letters instructed voters to contact election officials and clear up the confusion.

Goldstein said many of those letters went to voters who were in fact properly registered--his own wife received one. Others went to voters who had changed their Maryland address with the MVA but the change had not been reflected in their registration. Such voters can cast provision ballots that will be counted on Tuesday if they encounter trouble at the polls.

Elections officials also examined MVA records to find voters who had told MVA intake officers that they wished to register but had apparently never sent in the card required to do so. Those voters also received letters and an opportunity to register. Those who did not respond to the letter will not be able to vote Tuesday.

"We made a huge effort to get word out to voters," he said.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  October 31, 2008; 11:13 AM ET
Categories:  2008 Elections , Rosalind Helderman  
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I don't understand why this would happen. I updated my voter registration at the MVA after moving in March. The MVA lady gave me the voter registration form right there. Told me which parts I needed to fill out and sign. Then, she took it back. It was filed by the MVA. I got my voter registration card in the mail a couple weeks later. It does not make since that they would just hand someone the registration form and give no futher instructions. At the very least it should be made clear that you have to fill out the form and mail it in yourself. It's sad that some people will not get to vote because of this. Why bother asking about voter registration if you are not going to make it happen? They could accomplish the same thing by putting a stack of registration forms on a table in the MVA if they are not going to file them for you.

Posted by: SweetieJ | October 31, 2008 4:21 PM | Report abuse

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