Short staffing at DMV due to COVID-19 creating voter registration backlog

PITTSBURGH — Short staffing at the Department of Motor Vehicles due to COVID-19 is creating a backlog in voter registration processing.

Three months after Channel 11′s Amy Hudak registered to vote at the DMV, and three days after she applied for a mail-in ballot, she got a message from the state saying her ballot was denied because she was not registered to vote -- but she was.

Hudak pulled up her voter registration online. There was no record of her in Pennsylvania and no record of her driver’s license.

She called the county election’s office. Her call log shows the four times she was hung up on.

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When Hudak finally got through, the election’s office said the DMV has such a backlog of voter registrations from short staffing due to COVID-19 and the shutdown, that people who registered to vote as far back as May, and maybe earlier, are still documented as “not registered.”

Not registered means no mail-in ballot.

One local voter said she registered to vote in early August, but the status still says it’s not processed.

“I’m planning on voting in person. I just need to make sure my application for registering goes through, and I don’t know why it hasn’t,” she said.

Allegheny County said their election’s office has been overwhelmed, with 7,000 calls on Wednesday alone. Frustrated Pennsylvania residents are dealing with dropped calls, endless ringing or voicemails that didn’t record.

The county said the system is now fixed but said most of the significant issues are at the state level. The online site has been down, and the DMV’s backlog is affecting what gets sent to the county.

The state didn’t dance around the issue it’s seeing.

“There have been some service interruptions for PA voter services for our online voter registration,” said Wanda Murren, the Pennsylvania Department of State communications director.

And in a key battleground state, it’s a concern state employees acknowledge and say they’re taking seriously.

Some election officials are working 15-hour days, 6 and 7 days a week, to ensure everyone meets the critical deadlines to register and request a ballot.

“IT, support staff, our contractors, vendors are actively engaged in troubleshooting activities, continually monitoring websites,” Murren said.

It’s not too late to register. You have until Oct. 17. You can check your voter registration status online using your name and driver’s license number.

If your registration is pending, or you’re being told you’re not registered, call your local election office right away.