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Wait times at the DMV continue to get worse

DMV Photo

Photo contributed by Mary Parry.

Long lines at DMVs throughout the Triangle are causing visitors to wait up to 8 hours.

With new REAL ID Act provisions set to begin in October 2020, the notoriously long wait times at the Division of Motor Vehicles have gotten longer, and a Voter ID Amendment on the ballot this November could exacerbate the problem. 

Chapel Hill resident Mary Parry experienced extended wait times at the Hillsborough DMV location when taking her daughter to perform her driver's license test on Aug. 15.

“We arrived around 7 knowing they didn’t open until 8," Parry said. "We were in a line of 40 people or more.”

Parry said while DMV employees did inform them there would be a long wait, many people would likely not be able to stay in line. 

“I knew other people couldn’t stay. They have other responsibilities,” Parry said. “It was eight and a half hours before we left.”

Another DMV customer, Steve Prins, experienced wait times at multiple locations.

“I went to four different DMVs yesterday," Prins said. "Sanford, Lillington, Erwin and Fuquay-Varina. All had three-plus hour waits to process three minutes of paperwork.” 

Prins attributed the inefficiencies to a lack of resources. 

“I don’t blame the DMV,” Prins said. “I blame the Republicans and Democrats in Raleigh who fail to fund DMVs and budget for enough of them. If they are going to pass laws requiring new IDs, the least they could do is to make the support resources at a level of service that is passable.” 

While DMV employees are already strained, a proposed constitutional amendment has the potential to increase the delays. A simple majority in the November referendum would add the following language to the North Carolina Constitution:

“Voters offering to vote in person shall present photographic identification before voting. The General Assembly shall enact general laws governing the requirements of such photographic identification, which may include exceptions.”

Gerry Cohen, former special counsel to the N.C. General Assembly, said the number of people without an ID that would meet the minimum requirements of the amendment is in the range of 200,000 to 300,000. 

North Carolina is no stranger to voter ID laws. In 2016, a federal court ruled the state's 2013 voter ID law targeted black voters with “almost surgical precision.”

Cohen went on to point out residents in rural areas are more affected than those in population centers. 

“Especially in rural counties, the DMV may only be open one day a month,” Cohen said. “And for people without transportation, it really creates a problem.”

He said the problem can be worse for certain demographics.

“They’re predominantly young and black,” Cohen said. “Not all young people have licenses yet.”

In the meantime, the NCDMV offices are taking steps to address the holdup. The N.C. Department of Transportation released a statement last Tuesday addressing the complaints. 

“Our top priorities are to issue accurate and timely documents in an efficient manner for all our customers," NCDMV Commissioner Torre Jessup said in the press release. "We will be taking many steps over the coming weeks and months to recruit, hire and train new staff and will continue to look for other ways to cut customers’ wait times.”


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