Layered on top of previous mistakes, California’s DMV finds an additional 1,500 people wrongly registered to vote under new system

A line of people waiting to be helped at a California Department of Motor Vehicles office in South L.A. stretches around the building.
A line of people waiting to be helped at a California Department of Motor Vehicles office in South L.A. stretches around the building.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Randall Marquis has lived in California for 31 years, but he knew it was a mistake when he received a notice last month that said he was newly registered to vote. He may have a state driver’s license, but he’s a citizen of Canada.

“When I saw that card, I just threw it out,” Marquis said. “I know I’m not going to vote. I’m not allowed to vote, it’s stupid that I should be registered to vote.”

The Newport Beach resident, who has a green card and is married to a U.S. citizen, was one of some 1,500 people who the California Department of Motor Vehicles said on Monday were wrongly registered to vote between late April and late September. These errors, which included other non-citizens, are in addition to the roughly 23,000 registration mistakes disclosed by the DMV last month.


Marquis contacted The Times on Sept. 30 to say that his attempt to get a replacement driver’s license at a DMV field office in late August ended with him being sent a registered voter notice by elections officials. DMV officials, in responding to a request for comment from The Times, then discovered additional errors that were blamed on employees making data entries.

“We have worked quickly with the Department of Technology to correct these errors and have also updated the programming and added additional safeguards to improve this process,” DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said in a written statement.

Shimoto and Amy Tong, the director of the state’s technology department, notified Secretary of State Alex Padilla of the errors on Monday.

The revelation prompted Padilla — who held a conference call with elections officials across California to discuss the new issues — to ask for an independent audit of the implementation of the motor voter system.

Padilla said in a letter to Shiomoto and Tong that he is “deeply frustrated and disappointed” after the repeated errors. “Immediate and transparent action is imperative,” Padilla wrote.

Elections officials canceled the registrations. And though absentee ballots will begin going out this week, they said the bar code on each individual ballot would ensure that no votes would be tallied on election day.


More than 23,000 Californians were registered to vote incorrectly by state DMV »

A DMV spokeswoman said a department employee mistakenly changed Marquis’ citizenship information and his eligibility to vote, then correctly updated the information to show he is not a U.S. citizen. But that did not stop the documents from being sent to elections officials, and state records last week identified him as an unaffiliated voter who could cast a ballot in the Nov. 6 election.

Marquis said the mistake left him worried about how it might affect the national debate over voter security. Just weeks after the 2016 election, President Trump alleged that widespread voter fraud was the reason why he lost the state to Democrat Hillary Clinton. But he never offered any proof of systemic issues, and state officials have sought to tamp down any notion that the problems are anything other than isolated in nature.

“What bothers me the most about this is that there could be 10,000 errors out there, or more,” Marquis said. “I don’t want this current administration being able to say, ‘Look we were right, there were illegal voters!’”

The revelation of additional errors could heighten scrutiny of how DMV and state technology officials rolled out the “new motor voter” system in April, a process by which eligible Californians have to opt out of registering to vote when applying for a new or updated license. In addition to the 23,000 registration errors disclosed last month, the system mistakenly sent out double registration forms for some Californians who had visited the DMV in the spring.

Though Marquis is not a U.S. citizen, he is legally allowed to live and work in the country. DMV officials have said that those who are not — and who can be issued a special California driver’a license as a result — are treated uniquely by the department’s computer system and have not been registered to vote in error.

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6:28 p.m.: This article was updated with information about what happens in the event the mistaken registrations result in ballots cast in November.

4:30 p.m.: This article was updated to reflect Secretary of State Alex Padilla requested an independent audit on Monday.

This article was originally published at 3:50 p.m.