FOLLOWING a rather tumultuous year of voter registration errors, still long lines, and the recent issues with its Real ID protocol, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) looks ahead with a new leader picked by California Governor Jerry Brown.
Chief Deputy Director Bill Davidson — who has worked at the department for 16 years — was picked by Brown to take over as the California DMV’s acting director starting Monday, December 31, 2018.
Previously holding the post was former director Jean Shiomoto who announced her retirement for the end of 2018, after over 30 years working for the department. Shiomoto became the department’s acting director in January of 2013 before becoming its full-time director in November of that year by appointment of Brown.
Despite Shiomoto’s ambitions for the department seen through efforts like the creation of a permit system for driverless car testing, and putting DMV kiosks in grocery stores to reduce notorious wait times, the former director seemed to struggle as the department encountered mistake after mistake.
Among the DMV’s current and biggest challenges involve its process of issuing the federally-mandated Real ID, which the federal government said was not up to par with security standards.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has made it a requirement that individuals have a driver’s license or ID that is Real ID compliant by October 1, 2020 in order to use it as identification when boarding domestic flights, entering military bases, and other federal facilities without a passport.
Verification guidelines come from the Real ID Act of 2005, and California has only been issuing Real IDs since January 2018.
In November, the DHS sent notice to the California DMV saying that its procedure for verifying residency for ID and driver’s license applicants were not complying with federal requirements.
The department received criticism for not immediately notifying the public of the DHS’ determination, but later said that Californians who did receive an ID in 2018 would not have to get them reissued.
Starting in the spring of 2019, new applicants will be required to provide two forms showing proof of residency.
“As far as we know, anyone holding a Real ID currently, as long as it’s valid, the feds will accept it and honor it,” the New York Times, quoted DMV spokesman Jaime Garza saying. “We basically have told Californians, ‘If you’ve got the card, don’t worry about it.’”
In early December of 2018, the DMV revealed that it failed to filed hundreds of voter registration forms and requests for address changes in its Motor Voter program. As many as 589 people were believed to have been affected.
This came after the department’s announcement in September that it had mishandled around 23,000 voter registrations, and wrongly registered roughly 1,500 people to vote.
Following the disclosing of the mistakes, Secretary of State Alex Padilla joined others in calling for a new DMV director and said he had lost his confidence and trust in Shiomoto.
Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno), another critic of Shiomoto, said that her retirement was “inevitable, given the history of the failures of the DMV.”
“This gives the incoming governor the opportunity of taking a very deep, hard look at the director position and team of people that the director puts around them. The DMV failure has been a leadership failure,” said Patterson.