With the delivery of the report by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s DMV Strike Team it is clear why the legislature turned thumbs down on auditing the agency’s many problems—the legislature itself was a major player in DMV’s troubles.

The Strike Team report revealed that two specific issues caused the surge of residents at DMV offices: REAL ID and the Motor Voter law.

Passed by Congress in 2005, the REAL ID law set security standards for identification cards, particularly driver’s licenses, while prohibiting Federal agencies to accept cards that do not meet the standards. While the law came from Washington, the California legislature put its own spin on when applying for a REAL ID.

According to the Strike Team report, “Unlike other states, California chose not to mandate a REAL ID so as not to single out undocumented residents eligible for a driver’s license through AB60. This choice increased the complexity of DMV operations but reflect a commitment to stewarding California values.”

So California legislature’s efforts to protect undocumented immigrants increased the workload for the DMV employees.

The Motor Voter law came straight from state legislators. Registering more voters through the DMV was the goal of the legislation, but according to the report, Motor Voter opt-out requirements “have greatly increased the workload of DMV staff.”

Had Motor Voter created an opt-in choice for DMV customers, instead of an opt-out effort requiring more staff time to respond, pressure on the DMV would have been eased.  Senator Patricia Bates has tried to reverse the formula changing the opt-out provision to an opt-in, but her SB 57 is still waiting a full hearing.

In addition, the Motor Voter law experienced a myriad of problems in its implementation, including registering 1,500 people who were not citizens and many other problems associated with automatic voter registration.

With California residents spending multiple hours in waiting lines at the DMV, a bill was introduced to audit the agency to get at the root of the problem.  Last month the Joint Legislative Audit Committee rejected, for the second time, a demand that the state auditor dig into the problems at the DMV.

Do you think legislators didn’t want the public to know a main culprit was demands put on the DMV by the legislature itself?

Action by the legislature is not the only wrongdoer resulting in incredibly slow DMV customer service. Non-action also added to the problem. The DMV technology system has been called “byzantine.”  It should have been fixed a long time ago but was ignored.

The focus by Gov. Newsom and his Strike Team to cut through the DMV Gordian knot must happen quickly.  Time is one luxury the Strike Team does not have. REAL ID for millions and millions of Californians has to be in place by October 1, 2020.

One DMV critic and a sponsor of the effort to audit the agency, Assemblyman Jim Patterson, has his doubts that the effort is on the right track. “This isn’t re-imagining a new DMV,” he said in reaction to the Strike Team report, “its making excuses for the old one.”