New computer glitch may have lost new voter registrations

By David WildsteinJune 28 2020

New Jersey Globe

Motor Vehicle Commission chief administrator Brenda Sue Fulton. 

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An indeterminate number of New Jerseyans expecting to vote for the first time in the upcoming primary election are being told they can’t vote because there is no record of their voter registration.

In nearly all of these cases, the would-be voters say they registered with the New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission (MVC) under the state’s motor voter law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2018.

This might be the latest in a series of computer glitches involving the transmission of voter registration data by the motor vehicle agency to the state Division of Elections, which manages the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS).

f there is a glitch, nobody at the agency knows about it.

“The MVC is not aware of any technical issues with the electronic transmission of voter registration information to the Division of Elections,” said Jim Hooker, a spokesman for the Motor Vehicles Commission.  “We are not aware of any registration issues.”

Multiple election officials are reporting calls from individuals saying they never received their vote-by-mail ballot whose names don’t appear on voter rolls.

The issues appear to involve predominantly young people, officials said.

Since the voter registration deadline was June 16, local election officials are forced to turn these voters away.

“My heart went out to this person, who was so excited to vote for the very first time, but now she can’t because she’s not registered,” an official told the New Jersey Globe.  “She said she registered at the motor vehicle agency when she got her driver’s license.  There is no reason not to believe her.”

It’s not possible for someone who registers at a motor vehicle agency to prove they did.

“The MVC does not issue a receipt for voter registration,” Hooker said.

The Automatic Voter Registration law approved in 2018 automatically registers any eligible voter unless they specifically decline.

Motor Vehicle Commission chief administrator B. Sue Fulton is statutorily obligated to promptly send the registration to the Division of Elections.

“Democracy works better when more people vote,” Fulton said in a statement released after Murphy signed the new law.

It’s not immediately clear how many New Jerseyans are affected by the latest electoral computer snafu.

Since 2019 was an off-off-year election, it’s possible that voters who thought they were registered voters – in some cases for several years —  didn’t realize they were not until 2020 when they sought to cast a ballot in the presidential primary.

In New Jersey, a 17-year-old can register to vote but can’t cast a ballot until they turn 18.

State resident who registered to vote with the Motor Vehicles Commission can check their registration online at https://voter.svrs.nj.gov/registration-check.

The Globe previously reported a significant computer error involving the MVC.

The agency appears to be  incorrectly assigning party registration when transferring data to the state Division of Elections.

There have been reports of New Jerseyans who register to vote at Motor Vehicle agencies, update their name and addresses or declare a party affiliation wind up becoming affiliated with a political party they never agreed to join.

Since the 2016 primary election, the number of New Jersey voters who have specifically registered as members of a minor political party has jumped from 3,464 voters statewide to 78,610.

The Natural Law Party, which has been defunct since 2004, has seen their voter registration jump from 396 voters in June 2016 to 7,019 this year.

In another instance reported by the Globe, some New Jersey voters – mostly women who changed their names – are receiving two ballots for the July 7 primary election after Motor Vehicle Commission computers created an entirely new voter instead of updating the original name on the registration.

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