W.Va. carrying out much-debated federal ID law

CHARLESTON (AP) — West Virginia continues to issue new driver’s licenses that meet national standards adopted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, amid a refusal by a number of other states to carry out the federal Real ID law, Deputy Division of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Steven Dale told lawmakers Tuesday.

Dale said the DMV began the effort with licenses up for renewal or applied for this year. West Virginia’s 1.3 million drivers must renew their licenses every five years.

“This gives all of our citizens the opportunity of going through the process without requiring them to come in and make a special trip,” Dale said. “If we had delayed implementing Real ID as of this year, not only would that have caused further inconvenience for our citizens, it also would have doubled up our workload.”

Once drivers get the new licenses, they won’t have to bring in the various identification documents required by Real ID for their next renewal because the agency is scanning and storing them electronically, Dale told a pair of House-Senate oversight committees.

But securing the necessary proof of identity and residency remains a hassle for some West Virginians, particularly seniors and those on fixed incomes, Dale said, citing consumer complaints. Lawmakers also questioned why the state mails out the new licenses, given the nature of delivery services in mostly rural West Virginia.

Dale said the new licenses come from a single source in Indiana, which also handles licenses for other states. West Virginia would have to upgrade security at its 25 DMV locations to provide them there, he said. People can still be handed licenses when the visit the DMV to apply for one — but these are marked as invalid as a federally recognized ID.

“We’ve had an extremely good success rate with the U.S. Mail as far as people getting their licenses,” Dale said.

After postponing the deadline several times, federal officials have warned that only people from Real ID-compliant states can board commercial flights and enter federal buildings without additional security screenings as of Jan. 15, 2013. The deadline for replacing all licenses with ones that meet the law’s standards is December 2017, Dale said, who added that the federal government may wield sanctions against states that ignore the law.

People seeking West Virginia driver’s license must present their original Social Security card and one other document showing their identity: a certified or original birth certificate, a valid U.S. passport or immigration documents if they are foreign-born. A federal W-2 tax and wage statement, Social Security benefit form or payroll stub with sufficient details can substitute for the Social Security Card.

Applicants must also provide two documents showing their residency, such as utility bills issued within the previous two months, a W-2, vehicle registration card, or a concealed weapons permit.

West Virginia already required several of the Real ID mandates before the federal law passed in 2005, Dale said, including a showing of proof that a person is in the U.S. legally.

“It’s a great big hurdle in a lot of other states to do that,” Dale said of the legal presence mandate.

Neighboring Virginia is among those states. Virginia is also among five states that provided 30 different identification cards to all but one of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers, Dale said. While Virginia has revamped its licensing system, Dale said, it’s met no more than 10 of the Real ID law’s 39 benchmarks. Among other shortcomings, Virginia still issues licenses with black-and-white photos and isn’t forcing the legal presence standard, Dale said.

“They chose to grandfather in everybody that had a driver’s license already,” he told lawmakers.

Neighboring Pennsylvania, meanwhile, joined 16 other states in May by enacting a measure opposing the federal law. Legislatures in another eight states have adopted resolutions objecting to Real ID. These balking states cite inadequate federal funding, argue that some of the benchmarks are unworkable, raise privacy concerns and question the law’s reliance on a network of databases meant to verify identity documents.

Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, echoed several of these arguments when he rallied the state Senate to pass his anti-Real ID bill in 2008. The proposed refusal to carry out of the law died in the House of Delegates. He told Dale he remains opposed to the federal law, questioning the prospect for voter fraud among other concerns.

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