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Officials believe DMV bugs are fixed after Monday mishaps

Feb 14, 2018 08:25AM ● By Editor

By Matt Septic from MPR News - February 14, 2018

Staff at Minnesota's motor vehicle bureaus are hoping for a smoother day Tuesday after computer trouble left them unable to renew driver's licenses most of the day Monday. 

It was just the latest in a series of information technology problems for the state's license offices. 

For many people, the process of renewing a driver's license is simple: go to the motor vehicle bureau, pay the fee, get your picture taken and vision checked, and wait a few weeks for your new license to show up in the mail. 

At a DMV office in downtown St. Paul, Jauquarin Satterwhite, who recently moved to Minnesota from Chicago, said he had everything in order.

"I passed the test, but they said unfortunately I couldn't get a license because the system is down."

Satterwhite was not alone. Across Minnesota, from Grand Marais to Luverne, it was the same story. People who tried to renew or get a new Minnesota driver's license were unable to do so. 

Amanda Coppin manages the DMV office in South St. Paul. Before issuing a license, she first must perform what's called a triple check to verify a customer's Social Security number and driving record.

"We run it through, and if there's a stop, we get a stop sign. If there's a flag saying you got a ticket in another state or whatever, then that would be a stop here, and we say no, you have to take care of this first before we can renew or give you a duplicate driver's license," Coppin said.

After 9 a.m. Monday, she was unable to do any of that. 

Minnesota IT Services fixed the problem Monday evening. The sticking point was with software that ties the state's legacy computer system to a national database, said Department of Public Safety spokesperson Bruce Gordon. 

On Tuesday morning, he said the system was working and there were "no reports of problems." 

This latest trouble comes as both the DPS and Minnesota IT Services are facing heavy scrutiny from citizens and lawmakers over major headaches with another computer system called MNLARS. 

After a decade of development, the state rolled out that $93 million database last July to keep track of vehicle registrations. But MNLARS has been plagued with trouble; DMVs have run into delays processing titles and tab renewals and transferring vanity license plates.

Two weeks ago DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's office said fixing MNLARS will require another $43 million in state funding.

It's something he wants lawmakers to approve when the 2018 session begins next week. However, some Republicans say any more money for the system should be contingent upon staff changes at Minnesota IT Services. 

MPR News reporter Tim Nelson contributed to this report.

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