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Lawmaker critical of agreement between DMV, Secretary of the State

A local lawmaker has issued a scathing letter to the Secretary of the State over an agreement that could lead to automatic voter registration by August 2018.


Eligible citizens in Connecticut will eventually be automatically registered to vote when they visit the Department of Motor Vehicles for license or state-issued identification services.  Officials from the DMV and the Secretary of the State's Office announced last week that they reached an agreement, but that a plan still must be developed.


Secretary of the State Denise Merrill says Connecticut is the first state to introduce automatic voter registration through this type of agreement, saying it will enhance voting rights and opportunity.  Merrill had pushed for similar legislation this year in the General Assembly but it ultimately did not pass.


New Fairfield state Representative Richard Smith, a ranking member of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, says he was surprised to read that a Memorandum of Agreement had been entered into between the Secretary of the State and the DMV.  He says that was in direct defiance of the action of the Legislature.  He said surprise is a gross understatement. 


Naturally people are frustrated with the DMV, and steps are being taken to ease wait times and other issues.  But Smith says to add more work right now seems to be ludicrous.  Smith says he is not in favor of the Agreement, nor a unilateral action. 


He said in a letter to Merrill:


"I am not sure what makes you feel you are above the protocol of the legislative process.  If you are allowed to act at your own whim without oversight and approval by the Legislature, why have the Committee process at all."


Smith called for a copy of the Agreement for review and comment, along with how much it would cost to implement the system.


The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities submitted testimony during a public hearing about the bill.  CCM said while the group understands the intent of the proposal, the requirements may become difficult to implement by local registrar of voters. 


Currently, the DMV collects voter registration information, however CCM says there hasn't been a reliable mechanism to provide local officials with this information.  In particular, local registrar of voters do not have the technology to implement this type of system.  If implemented, it would likely require new technology to be purchased.  CCM says that could be an added expense on cities and towns.


A 1993 federal act, known as the motor-voter law, encourages voter registration at DMVs.

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