The California Department of Motor Vehicles issued 2.3 million new IDs this year using a process that doesn’t meet the federal government’s standards, the DMV was told last month.
The development means Californians who got those Real IDs will need to provide a second form of documentation to prove their residency when their ID comes up for renewal. DMV spokesman Armando Botello said the federal government told the DMV during phone conversations about the issue that it would still accept IDs that didn’t meet the requirement in the meantime.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security sent DMV director Jean Shiomoto a letter on Nov. 21 saying California’s process for verifying ID applicants’ residency didn’t meet federal requirements.
Federal standards require ID applicants to “present at least two documents of the State’s choice that include the individual’s name and principal residence,” according to the letter. It instructed the DMV to send federal officials a plan to correct the issue.
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The department is still finalizing its correction plan, but intends to start requiring new applicants to provide two documents verifying residency beginning in April.
In a Friday letter, Shiomoto told DHS that Californians provide one residency document when they apply for a new ID at the DMV and that the department then mails the ID to the address provided as secondary verification.
The department provided several em-ails between California and federal officials from last year that show DHS official Steve Yonkers, director of identity and credentialing for the Real ID program, describing the state’s residency verification plan as “acceptable.”
Still, the department will begin asking new applicants for two documents verifying residency starting in April 2019, Shiomoto wrote in her letter.
After Oct. 1, 2020, airport security checkpoints won’t accept IDs that don’t meet federally mandated security upgrades known as Real ID. Shiomoto wrote that cards that have already been issued “will be accepted for official federal purposes.”
People who got their IDs using just one residency document will need to provide a second document when their license comes up for renewal in five years. The department is working to let those people submit their residency document online or by mail, Botello said.
DHS did not immediately respond to questions on Friday afternoon.
Republican lawmakers complained that the DMV continued to issue Real IDs under the old procedure even after receiving the November letter from DHS.
“It’s completely unacceptable that the DMV knew about this issue for a month before even acknowledging something was wrong,” Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron said in a statement. “This is unacceptable and flies in the face of security for our citizens, which is what Real ID was created for in the first place.”
The Real ID law was passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and requires new ID cards to carry special markings.
Despite the DMV’s assurances, Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson said he’s worried the Real ID issues could jeopardize Californians’ ability to board planes when the federal requirements take effect.
“We’re on the edge here of a major catastrophe,” said Patterson, an outspoken DMV critic. “This is the kind of nonsense that we keep hearing from the DMV over and over again.”
It’s latest problem the department has faced the past few months. Hourslong wait times at department field offices drew public outcry and harsh critiques from lawmakers over the summer. The department blamed the delays in part on the new Real ID requirements, which Shiomoto told lawmakers were more time-consuming to explain to customers than expected.
The department has also received sharp criticism for improperly registering thousands of people to vote. Secretary of State Alex Padilla, California’s top election official, said earlier this month that Shiomoto “lost my confidence and trust.”
Shiomoto has announced she will retire this year after three decades at the department. Gov. Jerry Brown announced this week that DMV’s chief deputy director Bill Davidson will replace her as acting director at the end of the year.