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W.Va. among few in line with Real ID Act

Jan. 06, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

CHARLESTON -- Weeks before a deadline to comply with new federal identification requirements meant to curb terrorism, West Virginia is one of only 13 states to do so.

States have until Jan. 15 to comply with the Real ID Act, which enforces stringent proof-of-identity requirements for anyone trying to get a photo ID. Many states have balked because of the costs to come into compliance.

Real ID places numerous requirements on states, from setting standards on which paperwork drivers must present to mandating tamper-prevention features so that IDs cannot be counterfeited. Documents that must be provided, such as official birth certificates, are scanned in and stored permanently with the Division of Motor Vehicles.

Eventually, the IDs will be required to fly or enter a federal building.

The law was passed in 2005 in the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks. All but one of the 19 hijackers had ID they should not have been able to obtain.

West Virginia implemented the program in January 2012. But that doesn't mean it has been easy.

Officials say many residents have complained about the requirements, especially from those who have been driving for decades and from those trying to get an ID after changing their name due to marriage.

State lawmakers earlier this year pressed DMV Commissioner Joe Miller to change the requirements. Delegates and senators told Miller they had been flooded with complaints.

"I can't tell you how many phone calls I'm getting about folks in their 50s and 60s who think that it is unjust to have to go through this process to go through and dig up this material," Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, said during a budget hearing last February.

Miller told frustrated lawmakers that the state's hands were tied. He said changes to the requirements could come only on the federal level.

"Probably our biggest challenge was the documentation," DMV spokeswoman Natalie Harvey said. "That's what we heard the most from folks."

Harvey said many residents seem to be getting used to the requirements, though.

The DMV processes about 400,000 applications for new licenses or renewals each year. As of Monday, about 40 percent of all state driver's licenses had been issued according to Real ID guidelines, according to agency data.

"We are thrilled with the progress we've made," Harvey said.

The deadline for compliance has been extended twice, and it could be extended again.

Most states aren't expected to comply by the deadline.

More than a dozen states have enacted laws opposing compliance with Real ID and several others have approved resolutions opposing it.

A study by NCSL, the National Governors Association and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators estimated the Real ID program will cost states $11 billion over five years. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimated the cost at no more than $3.9 billion.

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