MOORLACH UPDATE — Motor Voter Accountability — December 21, 2018

Motor Voter is a mess.

It’s not like the Secretary of State wasn’t warned many times of the impending problems as the bill went through the legislature. And not just by Republicans, but by several immigrant groups and even the ACLU. They had serious concerns and some of those are now manifesting themselves. Rather than be the responsible and accountable manager of our voter registration process, Alex Padilla chose to ignore and brush off legitimate concerns. I’m not sure that’s how the person who is supposed to secure the most sacred duty of citizens should act.

Unfortunately, accountability in Sacramento is virtually nonexistent. Audit reports are produced, but it seems as if nothing is ever or rarely modified in the impacted departments according to the auditors’ recommendations. Recently we’ve seen it with Caltrans, the Mental Health Services Act funding accumulation, the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the DMV’s long lines, and the list goes on.

So, I’ve provided a little bit of accountability in a CalMatters submittal, which is the first piece below. First, who were the 15 Senators that voted against AB 1461 (2016)? All of the Senate Republicans, including myself, and one Democrat, Senator Monning. Second, if it is flawed, then discontinue it until the bugs are worked out. And third, make it an opt-in opportunity, not an opt-out corundum.

When I was interviewed by the Sacramento Bee on this subject, I agreed to be recorded (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Motor Voter Madness — December 6, 2018). During the lengthy interview, I bantered with the reporter and even jested that if he had suggestions for legislation to let me know (with a chuckle). He thought this was podcast worthy and you can catch it near the end of his recording, around the 17 minute mark, at

Around the Capitol is an insider’s publication, with paid subscribers, of goings on under the Dome. The publisher did a version of the People’s Choice Awards and recognized State Senators from both parties in three categories. I made it to two of them. Let’s just say that it is an honor to be recognized. I’ll just note that the list recognizes my gregariousness, something that may have been missed by well-intended reporters. The Nooner is the second piece below.

Merry Christmas!




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My turn: ‘Motor Voter’ was a disaster waiting to happen—and it did

Guest Commentary

By John M.W. Moorlach, Special to CALmatters

In his re-election statement posted on the secretary of state’s website, Secretary of State Alex Padilla boasts: “In my first term, I’ve worked to expand access to the ballot box.”

Perhaps he can take credit for some gains, but his “motor voter” program is a disaster and ought to be shut until it is fixed. In September, the Department of Motor Vehicles admitted it made 23,000 erroneous registrations. Serious questions about the integrity of the program must be answered.

Expanding access is worse than worthless without voting integrity. This is not a partisan issue. It’s about protecting the righteousness of our election system, which is a sacred responsibility in a democracy and one that rests with the Secretary of State.

Although the DMV is a troubled department, Padilla must take ownership of Motor Voter’s problems. He sponsored the bill establishing the program in 2015, Assembly Bill 1461 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, a San Diego Democrat.

Under the bill, when a citizen obtains or renews a driver’s license or state ID card, the DMV must automatically transfer voter registration information to the Secretary of State’s office.

At hearings on the bill, ACLU representative Raul Macias testified: “I think a key part that’s missing is we haven’t heard from the DMV about if they think they are capable of doing this and what is the accuracy of their data. That’s critical information.”

The ACLU’s concerns were prescient. It doubted the DMV’s ability to properly handle and transfer the necessary personal data to the Secretary of State.

The ACLU also pointed out that motor voter, as originally created on the federal level, envisioned an opt-in system, not the opt-out system California was putting in place. Huge difference. The problem with the opt-out program is it does not provide adequate protection against data errors.

The newly registered voter receives a postcard in the mail stating they have been registered to vote. If they object, they need to notify the local registrar of voters to be removed from voter rolls. In the end, large numbers of non-citizens unwittingly are added to the state’s voter files, ironically putting themselves at risk of deportation.

In hearings on the bill, Padilla actually testified twice that AB 1461 would make the registration process more secure. Asked how much confidence he had in the DMV’s record-keeping systems, Padilla replied: “I don’t assume the incompetence of the DMV.”

Apparently, he never has spent hours in a DMV line, as many Californians have done. The situation was so bad in September that Gov. Jerry Brown ordered an audit of the DMV.

The ACLU said there were more than 3.3 million lawful permanent residents in California and that even a small margin of error could result in hundreds or more mistakenly added to the voter rolls. That scenario has now played out.

Curiously, the bill was amended late in its legislative process with provisions protecting noncitizens from prosecution under state law, although not federal law.

Another late change: cutting out a provision requiring the DMV to provide the Secretary of State with proof the newly registered person is a citizen eligible to vote. The final wording specifically said the DMV was not required to determine eligibility for voter registration and voting. Rather, the Secretary of State is solely responsible for determining eligibility.

In other words, Padilla, as our Chief Elections Officer, is responsible for ensuring the integrity of our elections system, including the registration process.

On my state website, I have posted letters related to the Motor Voter disaster. On Nov. 9, Padilla wrote to me, “I share with you my deep frustration with these persistent errors by the DMV” and the California Department of Technology, which supervises the DMV’s data systems, “and have called for an independent third-party review.”

That’s not enough. A major embarrassment was bound to happen. The Motor Voter must be suspended until it’s fixed, and it’s Padilla responsibility to fix it. And legislators should quickly take up Senate Bill 57 by Senate Republican Leader Pat Bates, of Laguna Niguel, which would change Motor Voter to an opt-in system.

Sen. John M.W. Moorlach is a Costa Mesa Republican representing the 37th Senate District, He wrote this commentary for CALmatters.




For the Noonerites who have been around for a while, you recall with fondness the California Journal’s recognition of legislators. Several years ago, I decided to carry on the tradition with the “editorial board” being Nooner readers. I keep it to three categories–most effective, truest to party, and who’d be fun to hang out casually with. I don’t carry on the Journal’s old categories or laziest and other negative characterizations.  They were fun to read, but just don’t fit in to the nature of today’s Nooner.

We also recognize both Democrats and Republicans. The Nooner’s readership covers the entire political spectrum as many of you regularly remind me. By sheer numbers, I don’t need to tell you that Democrats would be at the top if the partisan categories were not separated.

In November, 172 readers voted on legislators from each party and were asked to provide a rationale for their votes. I purposely did it after the election as I didn’t want either the votes or rationales given to be used in any manner in campaigns.

So, here we go!

Most Effective Senate Democrat

  1. Toni Atkins(D-San Diego)
    – “Ushered in a new era in the Senate by breaking barriers!”
    – “Unfortunately she gets her bills through.”
    – “Irrespective of her current title, in my experience she is fair, listens to all sides and follows her conscience.”
    – “He’s not afraid to charge into unchartered territory and bring together unlikely parties.”
  2. Scott Wiener(D-San Francisco)
    – “Worked harder than any other member to pass his legislation.”
    – “He got the most bills by far off of suspense. Whether they were criminal justice issues, LGTBQ or Net Neutrality… he was the Suspense file winner.”
    – “Wiener takes on the big stuff, builds broad coalitions and while he always doesn’t get it sent to the Gov’s desk, shakes things up.”
  3. Holly Mitchell(D-Los Angeles)
    – “As budget chair, she skillfully balanced the needs across multiple areas of the budget while staying true to her roots – helping the underserved.”
    – “Tireless and passionate.”
    – “She truly is the ‘moral compass’ of the Legislature.”

Most Effective Senate Republican

  1. Anthony Cannella(R-Ceres)
    – “If you don’t swing the bat, you’re not going to get a hit. Cannella is always willing to suit up for the game to get on base and be at the table.”
    – “Cannella was never intoxicated by the idea of being a Forever Elected. This gave him the intellectual and political freedom to be bold.”
    – “Effective in the sense that he was able to reach across the aisle at times and get things done for his district.”
  2. John Moorlach(R-Irvine)
    – “Consistently a sensible voice surrounding financial issues. His opinions are taken seriously by both sides of the aisle.”
    – “Credible and knowledgeable on issues he embraces.”
    – “As usual, stood out as the most gregarious Republican Senator”
  3. Scott Wilk(R-Santa Clarita)
    – “You can’t but him in a box – pragmatic conservative but willing to work both sides of the aisle.”
    – “He is one of the only normal ones. His legislation is thoughtful, substantive and has bipartisan support.”
    – “You always know where you stand with him and he takes positions based on where he thinks his district will be.”

Truest to Party Senate Democrat

  1. Holly Mitchell(D-Los Angeles)
    – “For constantly being present in her district making herself accessible to all.”
    – “Badass working for people of color, women, single moms, etc., in addition to more mainstream Dem planks.”
    – “She focuses on people in poverty who do not have much power to fight back against injustice.”
  2. Ricardo Lara(D-Long Beach)
    – “For making “progressive” mainstream, and for carrying the torch on Medicare for All.”
    – “No Senator better represents Democrats’ ability to bring all groups to the table without compromising our values of inclusion and respect for all.”
    – “Socialized healthcare.”
  3. Kevin de León(D-E. Los Angeles)
    – “Progressive champion willing to step out of line to run a long shot campaign just to get DiFi to tilt left.”
    – “A rising star in the progressive and immigrant movement.”
    – “Demonstrated to the world what real California Democratic Values look like.”

Truest to Party Senate Republican

  1. Jim Nielsen(R-Gerber)
    – “Sen. Nielsen has provided a consistent and measured conservative voice for decades.”
    – “Water storage.”
    – “Bless his old-man heart, he’s an old-school Republican until his last breath.”
  2. John Moorlach(R-Irvine)
    – “Fiscal conservative who is as consistent as they come.”
    – “More pragmatic than believed but will not compromise on principles.”
    – “Keeps the GOP compass intact, but can still maneuver around the Capitol.”
  3. Joel Anderson(R-Alpine)
    – “Pro-business, against raising taxes…follows his beliefs even if they aren’t always in his best interest…”
    – “As pro-Trump as you can get.”
    – “Can be a surprising vote for bills of the Democrats.”

“Who Would You Like to Have a Beer, Tea, or Coffee With?” – Senate Democrat

  1. Ben Allen(D-Santa Monica)
    – “He seems rational and fun.”
    – “Has a half-hour meet and greet or bill conversation ever really scratched the surface of what lies beneath? Nope. Scott Wiener close second.”
    – “In it for all the right reasons, smart, fun, and solid.”
  2. Ricardo Lara(D-Long Beach)
    – “I mean……come on. I think we all secretly wish Lara was our gay best friend.”
    – “He’ll spill the tea!”
    – “Laugh out loud funny!”
  3. Mike McGuire(D-Healdsburg)
    – “It would just be so entertaining.”
    – “He is a refreshing voice and personality in the normally staid Senate.”
    – “He is approachable and eager.”

“Who Would You Like to Have a Beer, Tea, or Coffee With?” – Senate Republican

  1. Anthony Cannella(R-Ceres)
    – “A good guy who is a fellow Aggie!”  (no, I didn’t write this one)
    – “Guy’s gonna be missed.”
    – “What are his thoughts on the demise of his party?
  2. Andy Vidak(R-Hanford)
    – “Easily the most relatable Senator to “normal” people.”
    – “He’s just a farmer. The man hasn’t changed since he won the special against Leticia when Rubio resigned in ’13. Instead of becoming a lobbyist/consult, he’ll probably just head back to Hanford and farm. probably drinks bud or an ice cold Coors Banquet.”
    – “Can it include a trip to the farm? Fun-loving and smart.”
  3. Scott Wilk(R-Santa Clarita)
    – “Smart, interesting and seems like he’d be funny.”
    – “Seems like a very reasonable Jeb-Bush-style moderate conservative.”
    – “Wilk has a quick wit and is very funny!”


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