'Motor Voter' Program Broke Down

From Associated Press

Half the states using the "motor voter" program, which lets a voter sign up while renewing a driver's license, suffered serious glitches last election. In some cases, Americans were denied ballots, a government review found.

The Federal Election Commission said Friday that the problems ranged from motor vehicle departments that failed to forward registration information in a timely manner to forms that were filled out incorrectly.

In all, 23 of the 44 states, including California, subject to the National Voter Registration Act reported significant problems with the program.

The number of complaints last fall were triple those of the 1998 election, officials said.

Florida, where vote-counting problems prompted the presidential election stalemate between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush, was not among the states reporting serious motor voter problems last fall.

In 18 states, motor vehicle departments had trouble getting registration information to election officials expeditiously--in some cases, in time for voters to be included on rolls on election day, the FEC said.

"Some of the states reported voters saying they had registered at the DMV, but come election day they were not on the rolls, so there was a breakdown somewhere in the system," FEC researcher Brian Hancock said.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said its review of the handling of absentee ballots from overseas military personnel found no major problems that would have delayed delivery to election offices last fall.

The review was requested last November by then-Defense Secretary William S. Cohen after several hundred absentee ballots from troops abroad were rejected in Florida because of flaws such as the lack of signatures or postmarks. Those problems are being examined in a separate study.

The motor voter law was enacted in 1995, allowing voters to register by mail and when they renew driver's licenses, register cars or apply for various government benefits.

The FEC said it received hundreds of calls from voters who said they went to the polls in November only to be told they couldn't vote because motor vehicle offices never sent their registration forms to election officials.

Others reporting problems with motor voter forms include Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Utah.

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