Appointments for new Colorado driver’s licenses taking months after COVID closure

Spring closures of the state’s Division of Motor Vehicle offices continue to mean long waits for appointments in the Denver metro area, inconveniencing people who need new licenses and leaving many new Coloradans concerned about their ability to vote.

Because of the coronavirus, the state’s DMV locations closed to in-person services for six to eight weeks beginning March 18, creating a backlog that the offices haven’t been able to completely erase.

The largest backlog in appointments has been for teens who are trying to get their driving permits or licenses and new residents who are applying for Colorado licenses, said DMV spokesperson Julie Brooks.

That has worried some seeking to register to vote in November.

“I did not want to be delayed, and I wanted to make sure my vote counted when it needed to count on time,” said Melissa Shotts, a Denver resident who moved to the state in June.

She tried to get into a DMV for a new license but had to wait for an available appointment for nearly two months. Like many new residents, she didn’t know you can register to vote without an in-state license, and she doesn’t feel like the other options were made clear.

Although Coloradans can automatically register to vote at the DMV when getting a state ID, other registration options are available and other forms of ID are accepted. For instance, new Colorado voters can register to vote by mail and submit copies of other identification documents. The state also offers same-day voter registration for anyone who wants to vote in person. Visit govotecolorado.com for more information.

The Denver Post heard from multiple people who reported problems with long appointment wait times, including one person whose out-of-state license expired before the next available appointment. Travis Golden said he has been calling the DMV, but the automated system keeps hanging up on him. The closest appointment he could find was more than an hour away in Colorado Springs, and it was still after his license was set to expire.

Ada Worcester had to schedule an appointment several months out for a license renewal because of a name change. She’s trans, and her old license doesn’t look like her anymore. She almost drove from her Denver home to Grand Junction for an available appointment before that one was snatched up, too. A citizen advocate was eventually able to help her get in.

“Being able to get your license updated or have a license is a really, really essential service, and these delays have serious impacts on people’s lives and even livelihood,” she said.

On an average month, the state’s DMV offices get between 60,000 and 80,000 appointments, Brooks said, so a six-week closure made an impact. In February, the offices had 82,272 in-person appointments and 24,868 online services used. In June, the first full month of reopening, they saw 68,306 in office and 53,746 online.

As social distancing guidelines remain in place, some offices have implemented extended hours in an unsuccessful effort to meet the increased demand. Brooks encourages people to check back regularly for availability. She estimates the offices receive more than 100 cancellations per day.

She also urges residents who need to renew licenses, change their address or renew vehicle registration to use the online option to save slots for those who have to go in person. About half of the renewal appointments coming in are people who could have renewed online, she said.

To check appointments or find out if a service is offered online, go to mydmv.colorado.gov.

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