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Even as new voter count soars, Nevada’s automatic registration system faces glitches

Kristyn Leonard
Kristyn Leonard
Election 2020IndyBlog
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Customers at DMV

The new system that automatically registers voters at the DMV has added thousands of new voters to the rolls in its first month, but issues with the system are preventing some people from registering with their preferred party.

According to numbers from the secretary of state’s office, 39 percent of the automatic voter registration (AVR) records submitted to the counties in January resulted in new voter registration. The state expects this percentage to drop going forward as more people become registered to vote and as the number of Nevadans registered to vote rises. 

Of the new voters who have been registered, 59 percent have defaulted to non-partisan. Many of these nonpartisan registrations come from voters who do not select a party, but two system issues also contribute to this number.

The first issue has to do with how the form is filled out. Affiliation cannot be correctly transmitted if the customer marks “other” as the preferred party but does not provide a write-in choice.

Second, if an individual has multiple transactions at the DMV, it can result in multiple voter registration applications for that person. This can be further complicated if party selection, or the decision to opt out, is different between the applications.

Both of the issues were identified before implementation in January, but did not prevent the roll-out of the system, Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske said in a report submitted to legislators. The state’s AVR Steering Committee that identified the issues is working to resolve them in the next stages of the system’s implementation.

There has been a significant increase in nonpartisan voter registration in Nevada, and nonpartisan voters now make up almost 23 percent of the total electorate in the state. The secretary of state’s office has credited the automatic registration system with the increase. 

From the implementation of the system on Jan. 1 through Jan. 23, county registrars received 41,068 AVR records from transactions at the DMV. While the secretary of state says that 39 percent of those were new voters, that number might be inflated by instances in which the same record was transmitted more than once from the DMV to the county.

A representative of the secretary of state’s office said that there was a higher than usual number of retransmissions when the system was first being implemented in order to test the system.

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