According to the Sacramento County Registrar's office, about 200 people who have received a card in the last week notifying them of their No Party Preference status have said they never registered that way.
The designation means they cannot vote in the presidential primary this coming March unless they re-register with a specific party, or apply for what’s called a “crossover” ballot which would allow them to vote for candidates from the American Independent, Democratic or Libertarian parties.
They cannot vote in the Peace and Freedom, American Independent or Republican parties races without re-registering in person or online. Those parties’ ballots are closed to people who are not party members
Barbara Sloan, one of the voters who complained to the county, says she had been a registered Republican for decades. She says she was surprised and shocked when she went to register for the Sacramento County Republican Central Committee and was notified she was no longer registered with the party.
The only way she could explain it was a trip to the DMV in November 2018 to update her address. She says she did so using the computer system, but was never asked about her voting status. The registrar also confirmed that Sloan's registration changed that month.
"There's nowhere you're asked the question, 'Are you already registered to vote?'" she says. “They can assign you, I guess, whatever. So there is a glitch."
While the DMV says there have been problems with the registration process, the recent issues haven't affected many people.
“The DMV is not aware of any recent large-scale issue with the New Motor Voter system related to party preference or voter registration, and recent claims of large-scale issues are unsubstantiated,” the agency’s spokeswoman Anita Gore said in an email before noting there have been 14 million registrations since April 2018.
The Secretary of State’s Office says there were problems with the Motor Voter system last year that prevented people who wanted to change their registrations to No Party Preference. The Motor Voter system failed to recognize the option and the Secretary of State’s office kept those people registered as they had been.
As noted there was a bug when Motor Voter first launched in 4/2018. Voters who selected NPP at DMV had their records sent to SOS with a blank value for party. Instead of updating these voters to NPP, they were reverted back to their previous party registration (if they had one).— Sam Mahood (@Sam_Mahood) December 13, 2019
Spokesman Sam Mahood says this new problem that people are reporting could be related to the design of the system.
“The screens that were used for party preference questions may have confused some voters and they have inadvertently selected to be registered as No Party Preference,” Mahood said.
But Sloan insists the DMV computer never prompted her to answer anything voting related.
“It did not ask you are you registered Republican or Democrat or Decline To State. It just asked for your name, phone number, address,” she said.
Sacramento County says about two-thirds of the people who have complained about a change to their registration had business with the DMV in the last year.
Elections officials are also going back through the rolls to eliminate duplicate registrations.
"We have seen over the last nine months to a year some confusion,” said county spokeswoman Janna Haynes. “People are reregistering but maybe they didn't put in their name or address exactly the same way as their current registration and they come up in the system twice."
People who wish to re-register may do so before February 17. California's primary election is March 3.
Of the 809,506 registered voters in Sacramento County, 349,483 are registered Democrats, 203,572 are registered No Party Preference and 203,492 are registered Republican.
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