Answer Man: When you renew a Missouri driver’s license why do you again have to show your Social Security card and birth certificate? Both of them are scanned — again! I could understand verification of my address. But my birth certificate and Social Security card haven’t changed and are already in the system. It seems this process could/should be streamlined to require only address information and my driver’s license. — Sara Jean Peters, Collins
When I received this email back in July the first thing I wondered was: Where the heck is Collins?
Well, it’s 53 miles north of Springfield along Highway 13 in St. Clair County.
Sara seemed stunned I had not heard of her hometown.
“You’ve never heard of Smith’s Restaurant? Home of the giant tenderloin? Oh, you poor man!”
Now I know.
On to her question.
I contacted Michelle Hirschman, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Revenue, which oversees the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles.
She started her answer by talking about REAL ID. Apparently, an understanding of REAL ID is crucial to getting Sara an answer. It’s also crucial, I’ve learned in reporting this story, if you plan to fly on an airplane starting Oct. 1, 2021, and beyond.
Maybe I once knew what REAL ID was — like I once knew how to conjugate Spanish verbs.
I recall a time here at the News-Leader when Will Schmitt was our Jefferson City reporter and he wrote a lot about REAL ID. I wish I had paid more attention.
One of Will’s stories ran on Oct. 9, 2017.
It says that Missouri in 2017 was among a handful of state holdouts to the REAL ID Act of 2005, which Congress passed after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
From the Department of Revenue’s website:
“The REAL ID Act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver licenses and ID cards and prohibits federal agencies from accepting for official purposes driver licenses and ID cards from states that do not meet these standards. Missouri achieved full implementation of its REAL ID program in 2019.”
Let’s review: The federal law was passed in 2005 and Missouri achieved full implementation in 2019.
I’m writing this on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, and I can only hope it doesn’t take that long to find out who our next president is.
I decided to check my own license
Missouri was late in complying because officials, including ex-Governor Eric Greitens, had privacy concerns over the state possessing scanned copies of birth certificates and Social Security cards.
Why is compliance necessary for REAL ID for me and you? Here’s why (from the federal Transportation Security Administration): “Beginning October 1, 2021, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another acceptable form of ID to fly within the United States.”
At this point, I must admit, I pulled out my driver’s license to take a look.
I do not have a REAL ID compliant license, because if I did there would be a star in the upper-right corner. My license expires in July 2021; I definitely need to take care of this when I go in to renew it.
The purpose of the federal law was to make it more difficult for terrorists to obtain documents like driver’s licenses that can be used to disguise their true identity.
Hirschman, the spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Revenue, tells me that prior to March 2019, the state did not scan and retain birth certificates and Social Security numbers. You had to show them to verify lawful presence in the United States and proof of residency.
Hirschman tells me that possessing a REAL ID is optional.
“If an applicant does not desire a REAL ID license, and their birth certificate and Social Security card were previously verified, then they would not need to bring them back in at renewal time.”
But, again, if you don’t have one, you won’t be able to fly in the United States.
Also, you don’t need a REAL ID if you hold another form of identification that meets federal requirements, such as a valid U.S. passport or passport card.
If you look at Sara’s question you see that she said she already had those documents scanned in 2019 when, she says, she obtained her REAL ID compliant license.
Her question and the response from the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles did not match.
That’s when I called Sara and she set me straight on Smith’s Restaurant, as well as her experience with REAL ID.
Here’s what happened.
Sara went to the DMV office back in 2019. She went there even though her license would not expire until July 2020. She went early because she flies a lot and wanted to avoid potential problems or hassles because she did not have a REAL ID compliant license.
So in 2019 she brought her birth certificate, her Social Security card and a utility bill for proof of residency. They were scanned at the time, she says. Her license became REAL ID compliant in 2019, but she was unable to renew it at the same time.
She went to the license office to renew what she says was her REAL ID compliant license in July 2020.
That’s when she went to the office in Osceola and the clerk checked her computer and determined that, for whatever reason, Sara had to present those same documents again for scanning. She had them on hand.
Sara thinks there’s a possibility that she was the first person at that license office to renew an already REAL ID-compliant license.
Her license was — once again — deemed to be REAL ID compliant.
Matt Connor, a different spokesperson for the Department of Revenue, said Friday that it sounds like Sara did not really get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license back in 2019. Otherwise, he says, she would not have been asked for the documents to be scanned.
At this point, I’m just going to say: I don’t know what happened.
But in the end, it is all for the worthy cause of trying to thwart terrorism.
Keep those questions coming. Send them to The Answer Man at 417-836-1253, email@example.com, on Twitter @stevepokinNL or by mail to 651 Boonville Ave., Springfield, MO 65806.