In summary

Clock is ticking to get Real ID. California’s coronavirus test kits arrive, but not all are ready for use. Open primary results in strange alliances.

Good morning, California. It’s Wednesday, March 11.

Do you have your Real ID yet?

People wait in line to check in at the DMV in Riverside on Friday, March 8, 2019. Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG
People wait in line at the DMV in Riverside. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

If you haven’t gotten your Real ID yet, you probably should soon.

Why? Because the California DMV estimates it will need to process over 8 million Real IDs in a little over six months — more than triple its past volume. The California DMV has processed around 7.6 million Real IDs in the past two years, director Steve Gordon told lawmakers Tuesday.

And lines are only going to grow longer. The number of Real ID applications not processed each month is increasing, which will likely result in lengthy wait times at the DMV this summer, according to a Assembly agenda for a Real ID hearing this morning.

If everyone waits until the last minute before the October 1 deadline — after which federally compliant identification such as a Real ID will be required for air travel — the DMV will face an “untenable situation,” Gordon said.

The DMV has been preparing for escalating demand by scheduling Real ID appointments within 72 hours of applying online at certain offices, hiring additional staff, issuing Real IDs through DMV pop-up kiosks, and testing an online system that pre-validates applicants’ documents, Gordon said.

Wait times went down for a while, but now they’re starting to rise again. In August 2018, around 150,000 Californians waited over 2.5 hours to get the Real ID. That number shrunk to 2,035 in January 2019 but climbed to 13,869 in January 2020.

The Real ID meets heightened federal security and identity-verification requirements that go into effect October 1. Other types of identification, like passports, also meet these requirements. The DMV is encouraging Californians who have alternative identification to delay applying for the Real ID so it can prioritize those with more immediate need.

California coronavirus updates

Passengers disembark from the Grand Princess cruise ship while docked at the Port of OaklandÕs Outer Harbor in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, March 9, 2020.
Passengers disembark from the Grand Princess cruise ship. (Photo by Jane Tyska, Bay Area News Group)

The good news: California now has 7,675 coronavirus test kits available and 18 government labs that can test them, as well as a commercial lab that will soon be able to process up to 1,200 tests per day, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday.

The bad news: The state currently has a backlog of about 200 tests. Part of the reason for that is the test kits are like “printers without ink” — they “don’t include all the components to test,” Newsom said. “So…we have 7,675 tests available, but not all of those tests can be accessed because all the ingredients are not available at all of the labs.”

Other coronavirus updates:

  • The true number of coronavirus cases is likely much higher than what’s being reported, The Los Angeles Times reported.
  • Confused or unsure about what California is doing to respond to the virus? Check out this video explainer from CalMatters’ Byrhonda Lyons and Ana Ibarra.
  • And for up-to-date information on coronavirus cases across California, check out The San Francisco Chronicle’s live tracker.
  • The California State University system is considering shutting down for a few days because of coronavirus, the San Diego-Union Tribune reports.

Other stories you need to know

1. All’s fair in love, war and political campaigns

Image via iStock

Sometimes you can help out your favorite candidate by supporting the competitor they seem most likely to beat. CalMatters political reporter Ben Christopher details how California’s unique open primary system, in which Democrats and Republicans running for state offices are listed on the same ballot, can lead to political strategizing that confuses voters, reporters and even the candidates themselves. Ben looks at a Democrat who qualified for the general election with financial support from a group of Republicans and a Republican who got a little help from his Democratic opponent.

2. A revival of affirmative action in California’s public colleges?

Assembly member Shirley Weber of San Diego wants to amend California’s constitution to reinstate affirmative action in public college admissions and public employee hiring. Black and Latino enrollment at the most competitive UCs dropped steeply after Proposition 209, which banned the consideration of race, sex and ethnicity in public college admissions, passed in 1996. Weber isn’t the first to try to overturn Prop. 209. The last attempt failed in 2014 amid opposition from Republicans and Asian American groups.

  • Another hurdle: Because Weber is proposing a constitutional amendment, it would need a two-thirds majority vote in both the Assembly and Senate and then be approved by voters.

3. “Armed and prohibited”: Thousands of Californians own guns despite legal prohibitions

A rack of long guns for sale at Big 5 Sporting Goods in El Cerrito. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)

An estimated 19,000 Californians continue to possess around 50,000 guns despite being legally prohibited from owning firearms, according to a new study from the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program.

Other key findings:

  • Nearly half had felony convictions with a lifelong prohibition on gun ownership.
  • By square kilometer, the highest densities of prohibited gun ownership were found in and around Los Angeles and San Francisco.
  • Census tracts with the highest density of prohibited firearms owners were in the towns of Garberville and Redway in Humboldt County, which had nearly six prohibited owners per 1,000 residents.

CalMatters commentary

California’s geographic location and its deep economic ties to Asia make the state ground zero for the coronavirus outbreak’s effect in America, CalMatters columnist Dan Walter writes. Here’s what’s at stake.

President Trump has attacked California’s salmon fishing industry. Here’s what Gov. Gavin Newsom should do to protect salmon and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, argue John McManus and Noah Oppenheim of the Golden State Salmon Association and Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations.

Other things worth your time

Billions of bees have been rented to pollinate Central California’s almond orchards. But does this process put bees at risk? // The Modesto Bee

Bernie Sanders says he won “big time” with people of color in California. But did he? // CapRadio

Joe Biden voices support for AB 5, California’s controversial gig-worker law // CNBC

This San Francisco assemblyman wants to tax vacant second homes and vacation homes to pay for tackling homelessness // Curbed SF

Blockbuster California festivals Coachella and Stagecoach will likely be postponed until October // Variety

Why a multibillion-dollar deal could be good news for the California state stem cell agency hoping to bring a measure to the November ballot // Capitol Weekly

See you tomorrow.

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Emily Hoeven wrote the daily WhatMatters newsletter for three years at CalMatters . Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco...