Secretary of the State Denise Merrill. mark pazniokas / file photo
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill mark pazniokas / file photo

Connecticut registered nearly 700 new voters Monday and Tuesday, the first two days of a “motor voter” system established at the Department of Motor Vehicles under last week’s settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

And the DMV wasn’t even open Monday, just AAA.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said any customer doing business at the DMV or at AAA offices that serve as DMV branches is now automatically prompted to register to vote or update their voting address, a long-overdue step complying with a U.S. civil rights law.

AAA registered 153 voters Monday and completed 359 changes of address for existing voters. On Tuesday, the DMV and AAA registered 541 voters and updated the addresses of 689 voters.

Merrill released the data as she also announced that the Pew Charitable Trust just ranked Connecticut fifth on its “election performance index” for the 2014 election, up from 19th in 2008 and 10th in 2012.

“We are very pleased with the roll out in all our offices and AAA. We feel this is a strong step in helping more people exercise their right to vote,” said Michael Bzdyra, the DMV commissioner.

The states and the District of Columbia are graded on 17 indicators, including the availability of online voter registration and other web-based voting information tools, rejection of voter registrations, problems with registration or absentee ballots, rejection of military and overseas ballots, and accuracy of voting technology.

“I think we’ve made a lot of progress,” Merrill said.

The U.S. Department of Justice and Connecticut announced Friday that an enhanced online voter registration system will launch Monday at the Department of Motor Vehicles in response to a civil rights investigation that concluded the state was in violation of the so-called “motor-voter” provisions of the National Voting Rights Act of 1993.

Under a settlement negotiated by the Justice Department, the secretary of the state’s office and the DMV, a voter registration system will be electronically integrated into the licensing system so that every application for a license, renewal or photo ID “shall function as an application to register to vote, unless the customer chooses to opt out.”

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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