In 2015, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla proudly proclaimed that legislation he sponsored – the California New Motor Voter Act – would “make our democracy stronger” by allowing millions of “citizens” to be automatically registered to vote when applying for a state ID or driver’s license.
In fact, according to a lawsuit filed last week, it is Padilla who is undermining democracy by violating federal law by implementing the motor voter law without safeguards in place to ensure non-citizens are not placed on the state’s voter rolls as well.
“In direct violation of his duties to ensure that only eligible voters are placed on the voter rolls, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has established a pattern and practice of doing nothing to verify that a potential voter is a United States citizen, thus causing non-citizens to be placed on the voter rolls,” reads the complaint filed by well-known Republican lawyer Harmeet Dhillon.
Filed on behalf of three California voters, including two naturalized citizens, the lawsuit also names Director of California Department of Motor Vehicles Steve Gordon as a defendant.
While the state law stipulates the Secretary of State is “solely responsible for determining eligibility for voter registration,” Padilla’s office has argued in previous exchanges with the plaintiffs that it simply requires voters to attest to their voting eligibility, according to KQED News. Under California’s law, an individual is automatically registered to vote unless they opt out of the process.
Padilla issued a statement in which he claimed Dhillon’s argument was “a fundamental misrepresentation” of the National Motor Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and “nothing more than an underhanded attempt [by Republicans]to bring their voter suppression playbook to California.”
Padilla’s desire to deflect scrutiny away from the motor voter program is understandable, but indefensible, considering its extremely flawed history, including a damning audit released weeks before the lawsuit.
The audit, which was completed in March but released in August, found nearly 84,000 duplicate records and twice that number of political party mistakes in the five months of the program that were examined.
Concerns about the potential for inadvertent or intentional voter fraud were raised even before April 2018 when the program started.
According to The Modesto Bee, prior to the April 2018 launch, concerns were brought to the attention of state officials, including Padilla, but they chose to go ahead anyway. It was subsequently discovered that at least six ineligible voters cast ballots in the June 2018 primary and two of those individuals managed to vote in the November general election.
Dean Logan, registrar for Los Angeles County, said there “wasn’t the appropriate readiness to go forward in April” and that issue was shared with the Secretary of State,
In October 2018, officials from California’s DMV and Department of Technology conceded in a letter to Padilla that as many as 1,500 people, including non-citizens, had been improperly registered to vote. The errors happened when DMV customers mistakenly – not intentionally – filled in the wrong voter eligibility response on their applications. The mistakes were brought to the attention of DMV staff, but were not correctly logged, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
While other responsible public servants might put motor voter on hold or simply consider working to fix the existing problems, Alex Padilla is choosing to remain willfully blind to the potential for fraud
In boasting of the state’s aggressive drive to pre-register teens to vote, Padilla recently boasted to Teen Vogue that the state is moving forward on plans to pre-register 16- and 17-year-olds when they “apply for or renew their driver’s license or their state ID through the DMV.”
Yes, let’s get an early start on voter fraud.