Lawmakers Demanding Answers on MVA Software Snafu Set Thursday Hearing

Two key Maryland General Assembly committees will hold a joint hearing Thursday to consider the Motor Vehicle Administration’s explanation of how a computer glitch failed to send more than 83,000 voter registration changes received by the agency to the State Board of Elections for processing.
The MVA software snafu, revealed on the eve of the June 26 primary, meant that a yet-unknown number of voters had to use provisional ballots in the election. All told, only 20,563 provisional ballots were cast in the low-turnout primary, and the MVA failure affected a fewer number of voters than that in the election. Christine E. Nizer Nevertheless, the powerful chairs of two committees that oversee election matters – the Senate Health, Education and Environmental Affairs Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee – are demanding answers about the blunder and scheduled the joint hearing.
Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore) and Del. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Montgomery), the respective chairs of those committees, have called for the resignation of Motor Vehicle Administrator Christine E. Nizer.
Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. has not responded directly to that demand, but instead directed the auditor for the Maryland Department of Transportation to conduct a comprehensive review of the matter and told MVA leaders to be available for any legislative hearings.
Hogan did tell WTOP-FM last week that an MVA employee overseeing information technology for the agency had been fired over the problem.
“Somebody already has lost their job over it,” Hogan told the all-news radio station. “The person in charge of all IT for the MVA is no longer working there.”
An MVA spokeswoman later said the agency “does not comment on personnel matters.”
Over the weekend before the election, the State Board of Elections reported that 18,761 change requests had been made at the MVA but not sent on for action. On Monday, June 25, the day before the election, officials said the number was actually 80,041 – more than four times the number reported earlier. And two days later, the elections board reported that the MVA had notified them of yet another 6,552 changes that had been attempted at the agency by voters.
After additional consultation and review, officials at both agencies agreed that 83,493 requests for voter registration changes made at the MVA had not been forwarded to the State Board of Elections for processing.
The affected requests were those to change an address or party affiliation made by voters who used the MVA kiosks or website without paying for other services, such as a new driver’s license. The problems occurred in the 13½ months between April 22, 2017, and June 5, 2018, because of a computer programming error, officials said.
Voters whose changes were not transmitted had to use a provisional ballot to vote in the primary.
“Over the coming days, we will continue to work closely with the State Board of Elections to determine the final number of voters potentially impacted,” the MVA’s Nizer said in a statement released last week.
Officials from both the MVA and State Board of Elections are to appear Thursday before the joint committee. The hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. in the Joint Hearing Room of the Legislative Services Building in Annapolis. [email protected]

William F. Zorzi
Bill Zorzi was a Baltimore Sun reporter and editor for nearly 20 years, focusing on government and politics. An Annapolis bureau veteran, he wrote a weekly column, “The Political Game” for the paper.Zorzi and another former Sun reporter, David Simon, are longtime collaborators on acclaimed television projects, including the HBO series, “The Wire,” and the HBO miniseries “Show Me a Hero,” which dealt with an explosive housing desegregation case in Yonkers, NY.

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