Editorial Roundup: Need a REAL ID? You better get going now

Published 11:42 am Wednesday, February 19, 2020

If you plan to get on an airline later this year and don’t yet have the new REAL ID driver’s license you best get to your nearest license center pronto.

Beginning on Oct. 1, those without the new license, or a passport, won’t be able to board a domestic flight.

Officials from the state Driver and Vehicle Services division told lawmakers the crush of applications coming in for REAL ID means they are unlikely to get the licenses to everyone who applies prior to Oct. 1.

Only about 13% of residents already have the new license. But many others have passports, which also can be used for domestic flights. Still, only about half of Minnesotans have an identification that will allow them to board a commercial airline.

For those who don’t fly, or who at least have no trips planned for the next year or so, there is no pressure to apply for the REAL ID. But many residents need to get the process rolling sooner than later.

The state’s problems of fulfilling REAL ID request are mostly self-inflicted.

Too many drivers have procrastinated when they have long known the Oct. 1 deadline is approaching.

But what really complicated the issue was politics in the Legislature.

The federal government passed the REAL ID law in 2005 in response to the 9/11 attacks. The idea was that people would be better screened while applying for the new driver’s license by presenting several documents to prove who they are, thus making flying safer for all.

While every other state passed laws to comply, Minnesota dawdled, not approving a REAL ID law until 2017. The legislation was delayed by some who used the bill to raise issues about undocumented immigrants getting a driver’s license.

But the REAL ID law helps ensure only those with lawful citizenship status get the new license. People must provide verified proof of birth, residence, Social Security numbers and lawful citizenship status.

Some state lawmakers have said they would be willing to work with the DVS to see if the Legislature could pass a law that would help ease the licensing process. One idea is to rewrite some of the requirements on documents that need to be brought in. For example, many people laminate their Social Security card but that isn’t allowed for proof of someone’s Social Security number because it’s considered an “altered” document. If lawmakers can ease the process while still ensuring it’s secure, they should.

And for those seeking a REAL ID, they should pre-apply online and read and understand the documents needed.

State officials say they think they will be able to get REAL IDs in time to people who apply in the next couple of months. But for those who want to fly next fall and winter there is no reason to push the deadline. Any glitch that arises could cause further delays in processing the new licenses.

— The Free Press of Mankato, Feb. 18

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Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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