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Probing the Dozy DMV: State Auditor, Not Department of Finance, Is Best for the Job



Californians can wait for hours outside Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices, and once inside it only gets worse. As Patrick May notes in the Mercury News, the massive state agency, with a budget of more than $1 billion, “is unable to accept credit cards for payment.” DMV problems run much deeper, but a solution may be at hand.

As it recently emerged, DMV employees can sleep on the job for hours a day, over a period of years, and still keep their jobs. This type of sloth, coupled with inherent bureaucratic inefficiency, has led to a 60-percent jump in wait times.

Legislators demanded an audit, which DMV boss Jean Shiomoto resisted. Then they backed off the audit and handed the DMV another $16 million. When the problems persisted, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered an audit, but not by the independent California State Auditor Elaine Howle. Instead, Brown’s own Department of Finance would do the job.

The Department of Finance audit won’t yield a report until March 2019—long after the November election, which raises another issue. Under the motor-voter law, the DMV registers to vote those who get driver’s licenses.

In early October the DMV revealed that about 1,500 “customers” may have improperly been registered to vote and noncitizens are among them. According to the Sacramento Bee, “it remains unclear whether any of them voted in the June primary.”

Those who get driver’s licenses tend to drive, so it is not out of the question that those the DMV registers to vote might turn up at the polls. It has already been established that false-documented foreign nationals have voted in federal, state and local elections for many years.

Since 2013, the DMV has issued driver’s licenses to 1,001,000 noncitizens. The motor-voter law dates from 2015, so Californians might wonder if any noncitizens voted in the 2016 general election.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who is in charge of the voter rolls, won’t reveal the number of noncitizens who voted, and he also refused to cooperate with a federal probe of voter fraud. So nobody knows if the DMV registered to vote undocumented Russian or Ukrainian nationals who cast ballots for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

As DMV problems mount on all fronts, the Department of Finance will address the DMV’s “challenges” in implementing the motor-voter program. But again, the state auditor would be better for that task. State Auditor Howle’s office uncovered a secret slush fund of $175 million at the University of California, despite efforts by UC President Janet Napolitano and her aides to deceive the auditors. Two UC bosses resigned, and the Board of Regents admonished Napolitano.

With a proven performance like that, the state auditor would have little trouble finding out how many ineligible voters are on the rolls and how many managed to vote. The people have a right to know.

Voter fraud, which usually involves document fraud, is a crime. State officials have a duty to uphold the rule of law. Legislators should give motor-voter the boot, and voters should register only at agencies established for that purpose.

Meanwhile, California’s state auditor would also be better at addressing the DMV inefficiency that forces Californians to stand in line for hours and forbids them from paying with credit cards. In typical style, Jerry Brown’s Department of Finance audit kicks that can down the road.


K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the Independent Briefing, Cross-Currents in California Water: A Case Study of Bureaucracy Versus Tradable, Private Water Rights.






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