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Photo: New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission via Facebook.

State admits computer glitch led to rise in third-party voter registration

Thousands of N.J. voters assigned political party they never meant to join after motor vehicles commission ‘design flaw’

By David Wildstein, July 01 2020 12:01 am

The New Jersey Division of Elections has acknowledged that a computer glitch at the state Motor Vehicle Commission is responsible for a sudden surge that attaches the wrong party identification to some voters, limiting their ability to participate in next week’s primary election.

“We believe a design flaw in the prompt that requires voters to declare party affiliation may have created confusion for some users,” said Alicia D’Alessandro, a spokesperson for the Division of Elections.

Minor party registration has increased by 2169% since the 2016 primary, something that several election officials said was an error.

None of New Jersey’s 78,610 minor party registrants will receive vote-by-mail ballots or even letters like those going to unaffiliated voters asking if they want to opt-in because the deadline to switch parties for the July 7 primary was May 13.

Under the state’s 2018 Motor Voter law automatically registers any eligible voter conducting a transaction at a state motor vehicle agency, unless they specifically opt-out.

The prompt refers to a screen allows voter to select a party affiliation: Democratic, Republican, Unaffiliated or other.

If the choice is other, the voter is taken to a new screen that offers a choice of seven third-party options: Green, Libertarian, N.J. Conservative, Natural Law, Reform, Socialist or U.S. Constitution.

The design flaw is that voters must pick one of those seven parties; there is no way to complete the motor vehicle transaction without doing so.

“Moving forward, the Division of Elections will work with our partners at the Motor Vehicle Commission to explore updates to make the Motor Voter prompts even more user-friendly,” D’Alessandro said.

The now-defunct Natural Law Party, which shut down in 2004, has seen their voter registration jump from 396 voters in June 2016 to 7,019 this year.

The Reform Party of New Jersey was founded in 1995 as a vehicle for Ross Perot’s independent presidential campaign, has grown from 146 members to 1,987 now, even though the organization disbanded more than 15 years ago.

With millions of ballots already mailed for primary election conducted almost entirely by mail, the only remedy to the Motor Vehicle Commission technology snafu is to vote by provisional ballot at the polls or appear before a judge.

“Any Democratic or Republican voters who want to participate in the July 7th primary and believe they had their party affiliation changed in error should contact their county election officials as soon as possible,” D’Alessandro stated.

The New Jersey Globe first reported the issue last week.

The party identification snafu is one of several computer glitches originating from the Motor Vehicles Commission.

Hundreds of New Jersey voters — mostly women who have changed their names – are receiving two ballots for the primary.

An indeterminate number of New Jerseyans expecting to vote for the first time next week are being told they can’t vote because there is no record of their voter registration.

MVC 2019 Signature Pad Screens
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