RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Torre Jessup included data in a presentation to state lawmakers on Thursday that included numbers sharply higher than the numbers in the same data set provided to WBTV by the DMV just a month earlier.
Jessup appeared by the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee on Thursday morning to face questions regarding the long wait times at driver’s license offices across the state residents experienced this summer and the secret DMV office first uncovered by WBTV in August.
At Thursday’s hearing, Jessup told lawmakers the long wait times this summer were due, at least in part, to a spike in the number of people getting their Real ID, which is a more secure type of driver’s license that people must apply for and receive in person as opposed to renewing their license online.
Included in Jessup’s presentation was a chart breaking down the percentage of DMV customers appearing in person to get a Real ID. The chart showed a jump in customers getting Real ID’s from 30 percent in March to 40 percent in July and August.
But that data differed sharply from the numbers provided by a DMV spokeswoman to WBTV in October.
A DMV spokeswoman reached out to a WBTV reporter in late September following a report by the station about discrepancies between previous explanations Jessup had offered for the long wait times and data on internal reports obtained by the TV station.
In a late-September email, DMV spokeswoman Nicole Meister said the DMV had been pulling data regarding the number of Real ID’s the agency issued from a source that left the data incomplete.
“As we dove deeper into looking at the numbers for driver license and REAL ID transactions, we saw some discrepancies. The issue was traced to a system called Exporter that interfaces and exports data from the driver license database, called SADLS. The system was not correctly exporting the data, which caused inaccuracies in the number of driver license and REAL IDs issued and the percentages that we provided you,” Meister explained.
“As soon as this issue was identified, DMV stopped using the exporting system. I have verified with DMV that moving forward, they now are only pulling directly from the source database (SADLS) to ensure accuracy. That is where the attached information came from,” she said.
Meister followed up her email a few days later, on October 1, with a chart showing updated numbers based on the agency’s new method of compiling reports.
According to the chart provided by Meister on October 1, 28.2 percent of all licences issued in March were Real ID’s and that number jumped to just 35.2 percent in the months of July and August.
The discrepancy in numbers provided to WBTV and those presented to the legislative committee were concerning to State Senator Jim Davis (R-Macon), a co-chair of the committee, and Senator Tom McInnis (R-Richmond), who issued a statement in response to questions from WBTV.
“We don’t see how it’s possible for DMV’s data to change so dramatically over the course of five weeks," the senators' statement said. "It would be very serious for a state agency to fudge numbers, and we’ll be reaching out to Commissioner Jessup for answers.”
In response to questions from WBTV on Thursday afternoon, Meister said the numbers included in Jessup’s presentation to lawmakers were pulled from the same source as the report provided to the station a month earlier.
“There are a number of reasons that could account for the difference in those numbers and what we provided you in August,” Meister said. “This will take us more time to dive into and compare the data.”