The controversial "motor voter" program implemented by the California Department of Motor Vehicles is responsible for registering millions of millions since it was established in April of 2018.
But before concerns about well publicized computer problems and human errors resulting in over 100,000 registration problems, the DMV computer network was reportedly attempting to connect with internet servers in Croation, according to a months-long investigation by the Los Angeles Times. Croation is often considered a haven for internet hackers.
While department officials told the paper that no voter information was compromised, what appeared to be a hacking incident was apparently kept from the public.
The Times reportedly interviewed people involved in the rollout of the DMV "motor voter" program who claimed there was pressure from top department officials to get it up and running prior to the June, 2018 primary election to encourage more people to get out and vote. Those interviewed frequently pointed to the rush to get the program up and running as the primary reason for many of the issues whiched cropped up prior to the launch. Some also said there was more emphasis at the department on getting the voter registration system into operation than there was on the need for scheduling in-person DMV appointments.
Among the reported problems with the system were registration documents showing the wrong voter preferences for people who had used it and non-citizens being added to the voter rolls. There were also reports of people not even realizing they had been registered to vote. Problems with the system were noted ahead of time by those working it but it seem little or nothing was done to resolves those problems.
Several state department were involved in the project, including the Secretary of State's office, the California Office of Information Security, and the DMV. The paper reports that none of them had ultimate authority over work.
DMV officials acknowledge all the problems with the "motor voter" program, bu Secretary of State Alex Padilla is still very supportive.
Among the California state lawmakers reacting to the published report is Senator Patricia Bates, who has been critical of DMV in the past.
"Today's revelations are further evidence that the DMV should not be automatically registering voters. While deeply troubling, these revelations are not surprising as the Legislature was told in 2015 that the DMV was ill-equipped to safely administer automatic registration. The best way to prevent a repeat of these problems is to put the choice to register to vote back with the individual," Bates said in a written statement.
Bates has a bill under consideration in the California Senate that will allow people to opt-in for registration at the DMV instead of automatically being registered to vote or having to chose to opt-out. That bill will be heard by the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments.
A new report on an independent audit of the program is due out this month.