By now, most California drivers know there’s a serious problem with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Many know what it feels like to spend hours in the grips of a failing state bureaucracy.
But recent disturbing details about the gross mishandling of voter information for thousands of Californians reveals a department in a clear downward spiral.
Fixing the DMV requires changes from the top down — changes that must happen immediately. To start, we are calling for the immediate halt to all voter registrations until an independent audit has been completed. If the DMV can’t even register our cars right, it has no business registering voters.
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In the last several months, DMV officials have come clean about mishandling voter registration information for 23,000 drivers and double registering as many as 77,000 people. The latest bombshell? As many as 1,500 ineligible voters were registered, including an unknown number of non-citizens.
We share the concerns of Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who has been personally notified of each these major errors by the DMV director. After six months of apathy, he is just beginning to show concern about public confidence in the electoral process. Now, even he is considering hitting the pause button on Motor Voter until further notice.
The replacement of top-level management at DMV should have already happened. The first reports of unbearable eight-hour wait times and nine-hour computer system outages were reason enough to call for a change. And yet somehow, the architects of the Real ID and Motor Voter plans are still at the helm of this sinking ship.
In August, state Assembly Republicans requested a full-scale, independent review by the State Auditor. Gov. Jerry Brown admitted to using his political power to stop this request, promising the Democrats who voted against the audit that he would take the lead to fix DMV.
The subsequent voter registration catastrophe and statewide computer system outages forced Brown to do an about face, calling for his own audit by the Department of Finance just 40 days later. The results of this abbreviated audit are expected in March 2019.
But with the scale of the problems and the track record of ineptitude, we all know an audit conducted by the governor’s own staff is not adequate. To earn back public trust, we need a real independent audit of the DMV.
When the curtains are pulled back to show the whole picture, the DMV’s collapse is undeniable. As elected representatives, we have an obligation to make sure there is appropriate oversight to meet the needs of Californians. An independent, non-partisan review by the State Auditor is the only way to truly uncover the scale of this disaster.
In January we will again request this independent audit. This time we’re sure to have plenty of bipartisan support.