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January 15, 2018

Hold On! REAL ID is kicking in

Jason Miller

Did you know that some county residents are now being required to show a birth certificate to renew their Maryland driver’s license at the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA)?


I was a skeptic of the news my friend had shared. I was certain that there had to be a tangible reason that someone needed to show a birth certificate at the MVA. It had to be a special situation, or at least a special license application. As it turns out, my friend’s information was correct.


Many people who have attempted to renew their Maryland driver’s license have discovered that you need to show proof of age (birth certificate) and identity, proof of Social Security (SS Card) or Maryland taxes, and finally proof of your residential address (like a utility bill in your name). If you have changed your name, you need to show proof (marriage license) of that, too. Ladies and gentlemen, please do not blame Maryland.


These identification requirements in Maryland are part of a federal mandate. Normally, a driver’s license is a matter left to the state, but, honestly, September 11, 2001, changed that. There was a time when an information sharing agenda was on the minds of many – if not all Americans. The Real ID Act was passed at the federal level to remedy the patchwork of various driver’s license laws across all 50 states.


Some people might think that this is a government over reach. As residents of Maryland, we need to remind ourselves that Maryland was voluntold to participate in this. Our MVA workforce is simply doing their jobs by following the law. I know that it’s easy to become frustrated with the MVA experience, but the decision to comply with the law was made way above the people at the counter.


The Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles explains the Real ID Act on their website. “The REAL ID Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 2005, requires changes to state standards, procedures and requirements for the issuance of driver's licenses and identification cards, if they are to be accepted as identity documents by the federal government.”


The Department of Homeland Security has outlined on their website where the Real ID Act does not apply. These exceptions include “voting or registering to vote” and “being licensed by a state to drive”. I’m not exactly sure how a federal law that was passed to standardized drivers licenses across the country does not apply to “being licensed by a state to drive.”


I have discovered that – as of this past September – Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Washington have yet to comply with the law. This means that if an extension is not granted to these states by the federal government, the licenses of these residents within these states will not be accepted as identity documents by the federal government. This means that those from these states will need a passport to fly within the continental United States.


I am fine with the idea of submitting my documents at the MVA. Lord knows I'll be doing it soon enough. I know that the State of Maryland can put requirements on their driver’s licenses. Driving remains a privilege and not a right in Maryland and in the United States.


There was a lot of diligence and attention to detail which brought about the identification requirements of legal citizens to operate automobiles and trucks across the nation. I hope the same hard work can be extended to ensure that only those identified as American citizens may actually vote in local, state and national elections. The Real ID Act created an integrity across all 50 states which is lost if it is not applied to our most sacred and sovereign act as citizens.


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