GLEN BURNIE — Following the voter registration error at the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) during the primary elections, the Maryland State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) demanded answers and solutions to this and a number of other ongoing voting issues or a change in leadership in a press release on June 28.
The MVA’s Motor Voter program allows customers to change voting information such as their address or party affiliation while renewing their driver’s license. However, this year the company says that there was a software issue where the information was not properly transferred to the Maryland State Board of Elections affecting the voting status of those who used the program.
“When it was confirmed on Friday that some individuals’ updated voter registration information had not been successfully transmitted from the MDOT MVA to the State Board of Elections, we immediately began working around the clock to identify the scope of the problem and get information out to impacted voters,” said MVA Administrator Christine Nizer in a statement following the incident.
The week before the elections, the MVA stated that 19,000 people were affected by the issue, but the day before the elections took place, they then revealed that up to 80,000 people could potentially have been affected.
“We are incredulous that there was nothing the state could have done to fix the issue,” said NAACP Political Action Chairman Kobi Little. “In this day and age, you have to have a fail-safe approach to technology. They should have cross-checked the computers well before the election to have enough time to fix the issue.”
The NAACP is asking that the state be transparent as they go forward with the process. They insist that they explain to the public what happened, exactly how many people were affected and why the public should trust their assessment at this point, why the state was so slow at identifying the problem, how it will be corrected and how they will prevent this from happening during future elections.
In another statement on June 28, Nizer insisted that the MVA is doing all they can to fix the problem and that fewer people than expected were affected by the error.
“On Tuesday, MDOT MVA, in cooperation with the State Board of Elections, identified additional voters who could be impacted by the same computer programming error as previously announced,” Nizer said. “I am confident that the ultimate number of voters impacted on election day would have been fewer than the 80,000 announced Monday.”
Nizer said the MVA sent emails to nearly 74,000 voters they had on file informing them of what happened and encouraged them to call to Board of Elections to make sure their information was up to date. On the day of the election, voters were allowed to use provisional ballots at a location near their home to ensure that no one was denied the ability to vote.
As far as their plan for the future, the MVA is taking immediate action to fix the programming error and putting measures in place to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
“While this situation is truly regrettable, it is important to know that all affected customers were able to vote,” Nizer said. “Their provisional ballots will be cross-checked by the State Board of Elections with MDOT MVA’s list to ensure every vote is counted.”
However, because of the error, the NAACP is still concerned that a number of votes were not counted or that people were discouraged from voting altogether such as a situation where their address change had not been made and they were not registered at a location close to home. In the case of a change in party affiliation, such as from an independent to republican, they would not have been able to vote at all because independents cannot vote in the Maryland primary. Also, provisional ballots are not counted until after the official votes which raise the concern of if the votes will be counted at all.
“We want to know the real scope of the problem,” Little said. “How many votes were cast, how many people didn’t vote and how do we know if it’s accurate?”
The error raises concerns about the integrity of the Maryland voting system, he said. The mishap has prompted the NAACP to call for pro-voter reforms that will ensure that every voter is able to cast a ballot.
On top of fixing the Motor Voter problem, they are looking for an inclusive pro-voter election system with same-day registration, modernization of voter registration, no-explanation absentee voting, language assistance, transparency and an end to photo ID and other voter suppression policies and tactics. All of which bolster voting rights and the NAACP additionally wants a federal fix to ensure the Voting Rights Act of 1965 stays in place the way it was intended.
“If they can’t do it in a timely fashion, they need new leadership,” Little said. “If the State Board of Elections is going to be working with partners and agencies like the MVA we need those partnerships to be fruitful. We expect them to turn over a new leaf and show that the people running it have the capacity to do so.”
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