Monday, October 15, 2012

The MVA Mystery Revisited

Earlier this month I had a piece in the Frederick News Post describing my rather complex experience renewing my license at the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) express office in Columbia.

While the experience was a model of efficiency as far as wait time and overall excellence of service were concerned, I was put off by the fact that the clerk brought my voter registration information up on a screen and asked me if I wanted to switch my party affiliation.

I informally sampled my friends on Facebook, and found that those who were registered Republican were more likely to report having the same experience than Democrats.

Anyway, Stuart Harvey, Director of the Frederick County Board of Elections, was kind enough to drop me a note responding to my article. In his message to me, he stated:

“I passed it on to the State Board of Elections, who will be discussing the behavior you experienced with their MVA contact. There is now a statewide online voter registration system that integrates with the MVA – but that question about “changing party affiliation” is not part of any training MVA staff were given in using the system, as I understand it.”

He also promised to let me know what the Maryland State Board of Elections has to say about this situation. I will report back on what comes of this here.

In the meantime, if you have had experiences similar to mine at the MVA regarding changing your voter registration, please share them with me. I may report them here but absolutely won’t do so without permission.

These are the kinds of creeping encroachments of authority that can occur when an entrenched majority party holds power permanently. Only by publicizing such incidents can we hope to force reform.  


  1. Richard, just renewed my license, and same thing happened. Voter info comes up on the computer sc5reen. The MVA worker told me it happens with everyone who is registered; and if you're not, you are asked to. So apparently, drivers of any party are asked the same question.

  2. Hi Len: They're not required by the Motor Voter Act to ask that, and according to the elections guy in Frederick County, they're not trained to ask it. Call my cynical but this is the kind of thing which can be subject to abuse. Asking someone to register is fine, but digging down into their party affiliation is creepy.