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California to audit DMV amid hourslong wait times, outages

September 21, 2018
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FILE - In this Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, file photo, people line up at the California Department of Motor Vehicles prior to opening in the Van Nuys section of Los Angeles. California Gov. Jerry Brown is ordering an audit the Department of Motor Vehicles in light of long wait times. The state's department of finance will perform the audit, looking into information technology and customer service. A Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, letter from Finance Director Keely Bosler tells DMV Director Jean Shiomoto the audit will assess information technology and customer service. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown ordered an audit Friday of the Department of Motor Vehicles in light of long wait times at field offices.

“Long wait times at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) do not reflect the high standards of service that Californians expect from their state government,” Keely Bosler, director of the state’s department of finance, wrote in a letter to DMV Director Jean Shiomoto.

The finance department’s audit will look into the DMV’s information technology and customer service.

Also on Friday, Brown vetoed five bills he said would inhibit improvements at the DMV. They ranged from a bill to create special license plates referencing the surfing movie “The Endless Summer” to another that would have tracked cannabis-related DUIs.

“Reducing wait times in field offices and addressing the urgent needs of customers is the top priority,” Brown wrote in a veto message. “The programming required to implement these bills will delay the department’s ability to fully modernize its aging information technology systems.”

Brown’s action came a day after a computer outage crippled more than a third of DMV offices for several hours. A router issue prevented about 70 offices from processing driver’s license, identification card and vehicle registration matters, spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez said.

“We welcome the Department of Finance’s input into DMV’s ongoing efforts to reduce wait times and improve customer service and stand ready to assist with the audit,” Shiomoto said in a statement.

The DMV has faced angry backlash in recent months from lawmakers and customers over long lines that have left people waiting hours.

Shiomoto has told lawmakers wait times spiked several months ago as Californians updated their licenses to meet new federal security standards known as Real ID. The agency underestimated how long it would take to explain the new requirements to customers and ensure they have necessary documents, Shiomoto said.

After Oct. 1, 2020, airport security checkpoints won’t accept cards without special markings required by the federal government. Californians must apply for new cards in person at DMV offices.

The department has already hired hundreds of additional employees to handle increased demand. The state has increased funding for the department to lower wait times.

The agency has also come under scrutiny after it mishandled roughly 23,000 voter registrations under the state’s new “motor voter” law.

California’s motor voter law lets residents automatically register to vote and took effect in April. The DMV says it sent the secretary of state’s office incorrect information for thousands of voters. The department says the errors mostly affected customers’ vote-by-mail, language and political party selections.

The state Legislature in August denied a request by Republican lawmakers to audit the DMV.

“I’m glad to see Jerry Brown finally heed the call of Republicans in the Legislature,” Republican Assemblyman James Gallagher of Yuba City said in a statement. “This action, although too late for many Californians who’ve had to wait in extremely long lines, will hopefully lead to better efficiency and a full review of a flawed voter registration process.”

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