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Casting Vote for Easier Registration

The California secretary of state pushes for a law to reduce the number of rejected forms, but some local officials still see June 6 primary woes.

April 01, 2006|Jordan Rau | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Under fire from county registrars and voter advocates, Secretary of State Bruce McPherson said Friday that he would press for changes in state election law to avert widespread voting troubles that some elections officials have predicted for the June 6 primary.

Trudy Schafer, program director for the League of Women Voters of California, said the changes would be a step in the right direction but do not resolve all concerns about voters' being kept off the election rolls.

The dispute concerns California's new method for confirming the identities of people who register to vote or those already registered who change their addresses or other information.

In January, McPherson established a statewide database to double-check registration forms by comparing names and driver's license numbers with state and federal records. Congress required the statewide database as part of a 2002 overhaul of election laws.

But county officials have complained that many registration forms submitted to the database for verification have been rejected, some because voters did not list their driver's license numbers and others because of typos or slight variations in spelling.

Since the start of the year, a quarter of those forms have been rejected statewide. In Los Angeles County, 43% -- more than 14,000 -- of the forms have been turned down.

Registrars fear that they may not have enough time to remedy rejected registrations that come in close to the election -- something that in many cases requires tracking down the voter. Those voters might not receive sample or absentee ballots and would have to cast provisional ballots, which are not counted until registration is confirmed.

The changes McPherson proposes would allow people onto election rolls even if they did not provide a driver's license number, as long as the statewide database could locate the number through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Schafer said that would resolve many of the rejected registrations but not those in which voters provided all the information but the database did not find a match.

McPherson says those matches are required under the Help America Vote Act.

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