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Results of DMV Audit Expected to be Public by End of March

The state’s audit of the Department of Motor Vehicles should be finished and available to the public, complete with agency responses, by the end of March.

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The state’s audit of the Department of Motor Vehicles should be finished and available to the public, complete with agency responses, by the end of March.

The Department of Finance (DoF) is conducting the performance audit after a series of problems with the Motor Voter program, an initiative whose aim was to automatically register every eligible DMV customer to vote unless they opted out. But technical glitches and human error resulted in questions about tens of thousands of Californians’ voter registration status and eligibility.

Delays were also attributed to problems with the federally mandated Real ID program. The DMV woes related to voter registration drew national attention in the run-up to the November midterm elections. 

The Finance Department has been soliciting public input for its audit since October with an online survey.

H.D. Palmer, the Finance Department’s deputy director for external affairs, told Techwire last week that the final report should be available — including responses by the DMV and possibly other departments — by the end of March. 

Typically, when an audit or performance review is conducted, affected agencies are given a chance to respond and have those responses included as part of the report or as an addendum.

“The complaints against the DMV began in earnest in August, when customers began complaining of unreasonably long wait times,” Techwire reported in October. “The DMV attributed the delays in part to the state's requirements under the stricter federal Real ID program. The following month, a router failure affecting 70 of 172 state DMV offices caused delays in processing driver's licenses, identification cards and vehicle registrations. Then, in early September, the DMV revealed that it had erroneously registered 23,000 voters in the wrong political party. Finally, it was reported that the agency improperly registered some 1,500 customers to vote, including some non-citizens."

The DMV said it had corrected those errors, but then-Gov. Jerry Brown ordered the state Finance Department to do the audit. Shortly after taking office, Gov. Gavin Newsom assigned Secretary Marybel Batjer of the Government Operations Agency to spearhead a DMV “strike team” to dig into the department’s operations and recommend reforms. 

"By any metric," Newsom said in announcing Batjer's assignment, "California DMV has been chronically mismanaged and failed in its fundamental mission to the state customers it serves and the state workers it employs. It's time for a reinvention, and I'm grateful to Secretary Batjer for agreeing to take on this tremendous responsibility on behalf of California taxpayers."   

The DMV asked the state for $40 million last month to help reduce wait times and speed the processing of Real IDs, but DoF officials have decided to hold off on that pending completion of the audit.

Dennis Noone is Executive Editor of Industry Insider. He is a career journalist, having worked as a reporter and editor at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies in California, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, including as an editor with USA Today in Washington, D.C. He lives in Northern California.