Driver license security improving, but holdout states risk resident’s ability to fly
Georgia on my mind
But even those renewing licenses with a spotless record have to come into the DMV with the new documents to receive a license. This has been one of the tougher sells to citizens who were previously able to go online to renew their license, says Rob Mikell, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Driver Services.
This led to longer lines when Georgia made the switch to a REAL ID-compliant document in 2012, Mikell says. The changes in processes and verifying documents was just one hiccup for those coming to the office, the other was making sure they had the right documentation. “We turned away thousands of people because they didn’t have the necessary documentation,” he explains.
In order to alleviate some of the customer frustration, the department put computers in the office that customers could use to print out some of the necessary information, Mikell says. “People could go and print out a bank statement or go to the Social Security Administration and print out the documents so they didn’t have to go home,” he adds.
They also had to be flexible when it came to some of the rules. When married women came in after a name change and they couldn’t find a copy of their marriage certificate they were turned away. But if the woman had changed her name with the Social Security Administration, and had that documentation, they would be able to complete the transaction, Mikell says. “After we did some validation we made some changes to the rules,” he explains. “We had to stay flexible and make sure that we were doing everything we could to interpret the rules correctly.”
At the same time, Georgia also switched to central issuance.
In the past, licenses were printed onsite at the local department office while the individual waited. Today, applicants are given a temporary license with limited security features to use until the official document arrives in the mail.
He cautions that there can be challenges with the acceptance of temporary licenses and he found education was key. There was a problem with this document being accepted by the Social Security Administration, so the department had to work out a specific agreement, he explains.
Georgia has re-issued 4 million of its 7.6 million driver licenses and is reaching out to the remaining individuals to have them receive new documents. While the process wasn’t necessarily easy, Mikell says it was worthwhile. “The citizens of Georgia are glad to have a more secure document, and while there was frustration and it took some time to get an understanding of the improved processes, we’re in a good place today,” he says.
Georgia has re-issued 4 million of its 7.6 million driver licenses
Vermont sticks with over-the-counter issuance
Annoyance from citizens was common in Vermont as well, says Robert Ide, commissioner of the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. “People were frustrated that they had to bring in documents that they may already have presented,” he explains. “If you’re 60 and have to re-prove your identity, we know that this can create some angst.”
Even those with good driving records had to visit a DMV office to receive a new license, Ide says. “We’ve always had an online system, but this forced everyone to come in over a shorter period of time and increases our wait times,” he adds.
Vermont didn’t have to change its issuance process and still performs over-the-counter issuance, Ide says. Vermont citizens also have a choice of getting a driver privilege card that is not REAL ID compliant. “We wanted to offer an alternative to those who didn’t have permanent residence,” he explains.
For Vermont, becoming REAL ID compliant hasn’t been easy. “REAL ID is a change, and while we found the people at the federal level were very helpful to work with, it’s a little painful going through the process,” Ide says.
Many states have already gone through the process, and though they may be not have emerged unscathed, they have emerged stronger than before. For any state that has not started the process, deploying will be tough in the short time remaining before the January 2016 deadline.
Ide suggests that the only way this works smoothly is to take advantage of the normal cycle of license renewals, however this would entail beginning the migration long before the looming deadline. “The states that are not going through renewals are going to be in a world of hurt,” he says.