David J. Swarts
New York Department of Motor Vehicles
6 Empire State Plaza
Albany, NY 12228
James A. Walsh, Co-Chair
Douglas A. Kellner, Co-Chair
New York State Board of Elections
40 Steuben Street
Albany, NY 12207-2108
Dear Commissioners Swarts, Walsh, and Kellner:
It has been brought to my attention by both constituents and voting rights advocates that many individuals who have registered to vote at New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (“Motor Voter” Act) have gone to the polls in previous elections only to be told that they are not registered voters. The most empowered among them contest their status at their county Board of Elections (BOE) or cast affidavit ballots and follow up on them with their BOE after the fact. Many others, however, simply walked away disenfranchised.
In any year it is critical for New York State’s DMV and BOE offices to have a well-functioning mechanism for sharing voter registration information, both at the time individuals register, on election days, when individuals who believe they registered through the Motor Voter Act appeal their voter status, and in the aftermath of elections, when the BOEs seek to verify the affidavit ballots of those whose Motor Voter registrations may have slipped through the cracks. Given the unprecedented number of newly registered voters this election cycle and the tremendous voter turnout anticipated in this Presidential election year, it is particularly important that the DMV and BOE have contingency plans in place to ensure that the vote of every New York State Motor Voter registrant counts. This includes having poll workers who are trained to advise prospective voters who learn at the polls that their registrations were not recorded of their right to vote by affidavit ballot and having BOE and DMV personnel who are charged with verifying contested Motor Voter registrations.
I am sympathetic to the extraordinary burden placed on DMV, BOE and your offices throughout New York State by the surge of voter registrations this year. Nonetheless, I am confident that you would agree that it is critical to take all necessary steps to ensure that every prospective voter who took the time to register and participate in this historic election has his or her vote counted.
I appreciate your commitment to our democratic process and your attention to this matter.
Thomas K. Duane
New York State Senate