A report that the New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission is booked 60 days in advance for drivers licenses and other services is drawing the wrath of Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli, who says Gov. Phil Murphy gets the blame for huge delays.
“If anything has been made clear over the past four years, it’s that Governor Phil Murphy simply doesn’t give a damn about taxpayers being inconvenienced,” Ciattarelli said. “The failures at New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission are the most glaring examples.”
Appointments are scheduled 60 days in advance and new time slots are available daily at midnight, according to William Connolly, a spokesman for the MVC.
As a result, NJ.com reported, people – including sixteen-year-olds trying to obtain a learners permit – are forced to stay up late with the hope that they can snag an appointment two months later. These appointments go quickly.
Ciattarelli has been pummeling the Motor Vehicle Commission for lines and delays for most of the last year — and has called for the resignation of their chief administrator, Sue Fulton – but now, with 98 days until Election Day – he’s skipping over the political appointee and taking it directly to the governor.
“Why should New Jerseyans have to wake up in the middle of the night to book an appointment only to have them disappear within minutes?” he asked. “Enough is enough. Let’s make a change this November.”
An agency spokesman told NJ.com that the backlog was a result of a new law that have 400,000 undocumented immigrants residing in New Jersey an opportunity to obtain a driver license, but by Tuesday night the message has changed.
“Since we don’t track the immigration status of customers, that’s not a question we could answer,” Connolly said. “As many people return to work, as COVID-19 restrictions ease, and as more drivers become eligible for licenses, MVC has experienced an increase in demand for licensing services.
That too has irked Ciattarelli, who opposed issuing licenses to undocumented immigrants.
“Governor Murphy’s incompetence has everyday hardworking New Jerseyans unable to get even the most basic services like obtaining a learner’s permit, while those here illegally get to go to the front of the line,” the Republican nominee said.
Fulton has been widely criticized not just for her job performance, but for her lack of empathy towards New Jerseyans who have waited on long lines or been unable to secure appointments.
That stance appears to have been reflected in a response from her agency on 60-day lead times.
“The MVC is processing 25% more transactions per week than before the COVID-19 pandemic,” Connolly said. “Like any other state agency, the MVC has experienced historic demand and challenges as it navigated the COVID-19 pandemic. Increased demand for MVC services across the board coupled with health and staffing challenges has meant the shift of many appointments online.”
Still, the MVC looked to put some distance between the Murphy administration and comments to NJ.com where a spokesman suggested that New Jerseyans be persistent and patient, checking online daily and showing a willingness to travel in order to secure an appointment.
Among the tough-to-get appointments: licenses known as Real IDs that will meet minimum federal standards of identification verification. As of May 23, 2023, travelers will not be permitted to board a domestic flight without one.
Some states have figured out how to deal with heavy demands.
In Oklahoma, state officials this week opened a mega center to help drivers renew their licenses or receive their Real IDs. California has partnered with the American Automobile Association to help process DMV requests.
Connolly said the MVC is continuing to add appointments and enhance staffing, although there is no timetable for changes.
We will continue to grow capacity as customers become more comfortable using online services – thus reducing the demand for in-person appointments – and as COVID restrictions are relaxed and in-person school re-starts, resulting in fewer employees taking leave,” he said. “We also regularly evaluate appointment availability, shifting appointment types based on demand.”