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New Canaan Rep. O’Dea: Automatic Registration Proposal Overburdens DMV

State Rep. Tom O'Dea is opposing a bill that would expand the state DMV's role in processing voter registration forms.
State Rep. Tom O'Dea is opposing a bill that would expand the state DMV's role in processing voter registration forms. Photo Credit: File

HARTFORD, Conn. -- A proposal being advanced by Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill that will significantly expand the role of the State’s Department of Motor Vehicles in processing voter registration forms will be adding too great a burden on a state agency already straining to provide the basic services it was created to deliver, according to State Rep. Tom O’Dea (R-125).

The bill, HB 5514, An Act Concerning the Department of Motor Vehicles and Automatic Voter Registration, would require the DMV to automatically register anyone doing business with the DMV to vote.

“The Department of Motor Vehicles was not created to process voter registrations,” said O’Dea, who serves as ranking member on the legislature’s Transportation Committee. “As we are well aware, the DMV has had numerous problems since last summer managing customer service issues, resulting in enormous lines for registrations and license renewals.

“These difficulties have been augmented by the deployment of new defective software that resulted in motorists having their registrations suspended for failure to carry insurance when they in fact had proper coverage. The problems facing this agency are significant and numerous, resulting in the resignation of a commissioner. As they struggle to regain their footing, this isn’t the time to saddle them with new duties, especially ones that are completely unrelated to the regulation of motor vehicles in the state.”

O’Dea said the DMV already mails a voter registration card with each license or identity card renewal notice, and provides voter registration information at each branch office, as well as AAA offices.

Apart from the burden the bill would place on the DMV, O’Dea said it potentially opens up the possibility for the illegal registration of individuals who are ineligible to vote.

“I support the goal of making voter registration accessible, and opening up our democratic process to all those who are entitled to and want to participate,” he said. “But we have a responsibility to be certain our election process is fair and untainted. Not everyone who has business with the DMV is eligible to vote. This bill contains language that states that if anyone is admitted as an elector through the program and isn’t legally qualified to vote but votes, their vote essentially remains legal. That’s an affront to our democracy, cheapens our electoral integrity and is unacceptable to me.”

The Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut has also stated its opposition to the bill, expressing similar concerns over the possibility of admitting unqualified electors to vote.

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