DMV commissioner on her way out

Reed to retire, effective April 1, after misstatements to legislature

Pat Reed

CHARLESTON — The commissioner of the state Division of Motor Vehicles is on her way out after questions over her handling of the Motor Voter program and the rollout of automatic voter registration.

In a statement Thursday, the Department of Transportation said the DMV Commissioner Pat Reed will retire effective Monday. Newly-appointed Transportation Secretary Byrd White will appoint her successor.

Appointed as the commissioner by former Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in 2015, Reed came under fire in recent weeks due to testimony she and her staff made to various legislative committees regarding the Motor Voter program and the delayed implementation of Automatic Voter Registration.

Motor Voter allows a state resident to checkmark a box on their driver’s license or photo I.D. application form to opt in to register to vote or update their voter registration. The DMV sends the person’s information to the secretary of state’s office, which then sends the information to the individual’s county clerk’s office.

In 2016, the legislature passed House Bill 4013 creating a voter identification program. It also created the automatic voter registration program. State residents who obtain or renew their drivers’ license or photo I.D. card would be automatically registered to vote or have their voter registration updated unless they opt out.

During the 2019 session, the legislature passed Senate Bill 491 which extends the effective date when automatic voter registration would start to Sept. 1, 2021. The date was previously changed twice since 2016 due to DMV having major issues meeting the deadlines.

The House Government Organization subpoenaed Reed to testify Feb. 15 regarding missing reports the DMV was statutorily required to submit to the legislature on the progress of automatic voter registration.

The DMV was required to submit a report on Jan.1, 2018, with a complete list of all infrastructure it would need to implement automatic voter registration. That report was never completed. The division also was supposed to submit a report Feb. 1 if the agency was unable to implement automatic voter registration by the July deadline. Instead, the DMV sent the committee a two-sided letter.

“I don’t think we were negligent,” Reed said. “We’ve looked every place trying to find that report. I thought I even remembered signing it. I apologize for that.”

Reed told the committee that contract issues with the division’s software vendor prevented them from meeting the deadline. The DMV will begin a contract with a new vendor starting in October.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee a week earlier, DMV deputy commissioner Linda Ellis told committee members that not all voter records were making it to the Secretary of State in the current Motor Voter program. She also told the committee the problems go deeper than software issues, including issues with the mainframe.

Yet, members of the House Judiciary Committee were told at the end of February by DMV general counsel Adam Holley that the DMV was ready to implement automatic voter registration. The legislature is looking into why committees were told two different things from DMV staff.

According to the DMV, more than 41,000 voters registered through the division in 2016, 48,000 in 2017 and 61,000 in 2018.

Reed is the former deputy commissioner of the state Office of the Insurance Commissioner, a former member of the House of Delegates, and a former member of the Raleigh County Commission.