REAL ID ran into a real snag

Over a year af­ter roll­out, the MVA re­al­ized it had a problem

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - MARYLAND - — Colin Campbell

When the Mary­land Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle Ad­min­is­tra­tion un­veiled its $3.5 mil­lion re­design of driver’s li­censes in a May 2016 news con­fer­ence, poster boards touted the new Mary­land flag theme, and a heap­ing pile of con­fis­cated fake IDs sat on a ta­ble, em­pha­siz­ing the need for bet­ter se­cu­rity.

It wasn’t un­til 17 months later — af­ter mail­ing out more than 1.6 mil­lion new driver’s li­censes and ID cards to Mary­lan­ders across the state — that agency of­fi­cials re­al­ized there was a ma­jor problem, ac­cord­ing to emails ob­tained by The Bal­ti­more Sun in a pub­lic records re­quest.

The MVA had been col­lect­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion of age, iden­tity, So­cial Se­cu­rity and state res­i­dency from new Mary­land driv­ers and those mov­ing from other states since 2009. It was in­for­ma­tion the state needed to have on file by Oc­to­ber 2020 for state IDs to com­ply with fed­eral REAL ID re­quire­ments meant to make sure states uni­formly au­then­ti­cated iden­ti­ties.

But MVA had not been col­lect­ing that same pa­per­work from driv­ers re­new­ing their li­censes — more than half of those who received the REAL IDs.

That meant 844,840 Mary­lan­ders needed to return with the proper pa­per­work, MVA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Chris­tine Nizer wrote in an Oc­to­ber 2017 email to the head of the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity’s REAL ID pro­gram.

Nearly 10% of those peo­ple would be re­turn­ing any­way be­cause their IDs would ex­pire be­fore the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s Oc­to­ber 2020 dead­line for REAL ID com­pli­ance, ac­cord­ing to Nizer’s email.

But for more than three-quar­ters of a mil­lion Mary­lan­ders, it meant an extra trip to the dreaded MVA.

In ad­di­tion to no­ti­fy­ing all of them, Nizer told the feds, the MVA needed five more months to in­stall a programmin­g up­grade to its Driver’s Li­cens­ing Sys­tem “to al­low these cus­tomers to present and have their doc­u­ments re­viewed and scanned, with­out ob­tain­ing a new prod­uct.”

“This programmin­g change will be com­pleted by the end of March 2018,” Nizer wrote.

The MVA be­gan re­quir­ing the doc­u­ments from cus­tomers re­new­ing their li­censes be­gin­ning in Jan­uary 2018, start­ing with state em­ploy­ees “to en­sure that the process is work­ing smoothly,” she wrote.

“There will be thirty months re­main­ing af­ter de­ploy­ment of this new process (un­til Oc­to­ber 2020), which pro­vides MDOT MVA with ad­e­quate ca­pac­ity to bring back all these cus­tomers, us­ing ex­ist­ing re­sources, within the re­quired time­frame,” she wrote.

To han­dle the ex­pected crush of cus­tomers, the agency has ex­panded hours at many of its lo­ca­tions, hired more staff and opened tem­po­rary of­fices in Parkville and Columbia for REAL ID ap­point­ments.

You can check whether you need to sub­mit up­dated doc­u­ments by us­ing an on­line tool at mva.mary­land.gov.

If you do, here’s what’s re­quired:

One proof of age and iden­tity, such as an orig­i­nal or cer­ti­fied copy of your U.S. birth cer­tifi­cate or a valid, un­ex­pired U.S. pass­port. (If your cur­rent le­gal name is dif­fer­ent from what is listed on these doc­u­ments, you will need to pro­vide a gov­ern­ment-is­sued mar­riage cer­tifi­cate, di­vorce de­cree or other court doc­u­ment to ex­plain the name change.)

One proof of So­cial Se­cu­rity, such as an orig­i­nal So­cial Se­cu­rity card, W-2 form or SSA-1099 (dis­play­ing your name and en­tire So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber).

Two proofs of Mary­land res­i­dency, such as an in­sur­ance card, ve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tion, credit card bill, util­ity bill, bank state­ment, or mail from a gov­ern­ment agency. (They must dis­play your name and Mary­land res­i­den­tial ad­dress, and be from two sep­a­rate or­ga­ni­za­tions.)

Those who make ap­point­ments are guar­an­teed to be served within 15 min­utes, ac­cord­ing to the MVA.

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