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DMV's automatic voter registration system has potential to switch your political party: Exclusive

State legislator and DMV commissioner at odds over the size and scope of the impact.

CONNECTICUT, USA — If you’ve been to the DMV within the last seven years, you may want to check your voter registration. The auto-registration system that the state put in place in 2016 has the potential to switch you from your previously registered political party to unaffiliated.

Connecticut is what’s called a partially closed primary state. It means you can only vote in a primary if you are registered to that party. During Tuesday’s primary, FOX61 talked to several voters in Bridgeport off-camera. They thought they were registered Democrats, but were turned away at the polls and told they were unaffiliated. The common link between them was the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles.

“Most voters don’t know that this happened because no one is checking their voter history every day or every month. They find out when they come to vote,” said Bridgeport State Rep. Marcus Brown. 

Brown said thousands of voters may be impacted.

“That’s tantamount to disenfranchise voters because so many of them were excited about voting and in cities like Bridgeport, New Haven, Waterbury and Hartford, the primary is the election,” said Brown.

Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Tony Guerrera disagrees with the scope of the problem. 

“We haven’t gotten that. We’ve gotten one of two calls about this,” said Guerrera.

In 2016, to comply with the National Voter Registration Act, Connecticut launched a system that automatically registers you to vote when you apply for a driver's license or go to get it renewed. 

The form asks you to check a box for your political party. But if you check nothing it tells you, ”leaving this box blank will automatically result in selecting unaffiliated.”

“You may call it an issue. We may call it a mistake. So I guess it’s how we look at it,” remarked Guerrera. 

Guerrera showed FOX61 printouts of the digital screens that highlight that provision, along with the multiple confirmations and receipts that a customer gets before and after submission. His message is advising customers to read carefully. 

“Check that last page because it goes through every piece to show you what you’ve done and that way if you want to go back and change it that is the time to change it,” said Guerrera.

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You can check your own voter registration status any time on the website for the Secretary of the State. 

“The DMV needs to send a list to every voter who either renewed their driver's license, got a driver's license, registered a vehicle,” said Rep. Brown.

“We always look at things. If we hear some issues going on we work closely with the Secretary of State to review some of the screens. If people find them confusing let’s go back and take a look at it,” said Comm. Guerrera.

FOX61 did contact the Secretary of the State’s Office to see if they are aware of the issue, and if so, how many voters does this impact? So far we have not received a response back.

Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at mcaron@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, X and Instagram.


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