Santa Clara County accidentally unregistered voter

By John Woolfolk,
San Jose Mercury News,
May 21, 2018


With Monday’s deadline for registering to vote approaching, Nancy Kops was getting a little anxious. All her friends already had received their mail-in ballots. But although she’s voted in every election since moving to San Jose 10 years ago, her ballot still hadn’t come.

The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters office said Friday that an employee error resulted in Kops being unregistered to vote.

“This error was caused by a member of our team incorrectly resolving a duplication in registration records,” registrar spokesman Eric Kurhi said.

Kurhi added that “we are not aware of any other voters whose records were canceled in error,” and that the registrar’s office is happy to assist voters to confirm that they are registered to vote.

May 21 is the deadline for registering to vote in the June 5 primary election.

But at least one other San Jose voter described a similar situation. Margaret Ma said she didn’t get her mail ballot at the house where she’s lived 29 years, and grew suspicious when her husband got his. She said she looked at the Secretary of State website and saw that she was registered to an address in Vacaville where she’s never lived.

She said she called the county registrar and got herself re-registered by following the office’s instructions. But she said no one explained how her registration address got changed in the first place.

“It really is unacceptable that it was changed without my knowledge or consent in the first place,” Ma said. “Clearly the system could use some checks and balances.”

In Kops’ case, Kurhi said the error occurred as part of the county’s transition to using California’s $98 million VoteCal centralized voter registration database. It has been more than a decade in the making to comply with the Help America Vote Act of 2002 and went live in 2016.

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“Unfortunately, a member of our staff incorrectly selected the Santa Clara County record for cancelation,” Kurhi said. “Our office has corrected the voter’s record and we apologize for the error and inconvenience.”

Kurhi was unable to say Friday afternoon whether something similar happened to Ma, but said voters should check with the registrar’s office if they suspect they might not be properly registered.

“If voters have received a state pamphlet, a county voter information guide, or a vote by mail ballot, they are registered voters,” Kurhi said. “If they expected one, but did not receive one, they should contact our office.”

Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, a nonprofit that was founded in 1994 to promote responsible technology improvements in the democratic process and has closely followed the VoteCal project, said she hasn’t heard of widespread similar issues. Such errors, she added, would likely originate on the local level.

“It’s not set up in a way that automatically takes people off the rolls,” Alexander said. “The Secretary of State’s office says it’s up to counties to decide who to remove. It’s not easy to purge somebody.” (full story)