In the wake of 9/11, Americans have been willing to make many sacrifices in the name of homeland security. As with increased airport security, everyone endures a little inconvenience in the hopes of making us all safer.
But the Real ID program that is now being implemented is not just about inconvenience.
The Real ID can be really expensive — especially for women.
To make it more frustrating, for the most part, citizens are paying the money to get information from one government agency just to give it to another government agency. These are agencies that we already pay for with our tax dollars.
West Virginia has begun implementing its Real ID program with driver’s licenses this year.
To obtain or renew a driver’s license, residents must show an official birth certificate, proof of Social Security number from an official Social Security Card or a tax statement, and two forms of proof of West Virginia residency, such as utility bill or voter registration card.
For those whose name has changed, including women who have been married and/or divorced, certified marriage certificates and divorce decrees also are required.
Some states, such as West Virginia, have fairly reasonable charges for these documents, although even at $5 each, a woman who has been divorced might pay an extra $15-$20 to gather what she needs to renew her license.
But if you were born, married or divorced in another state, those charges can be considerably higher — $20-$50 per piece, with shipping fees in some cases. One Florida newspaper columnist reported that getting his license renewed cost an extra $75 in copy costs.
We have always felt that public records should be available to the public on a true cost-only basis. After all, the public already has paid for the copy machine, the clerk’s time, the building and utilities. However, many state and county agencies use these records as an extra revenue stream. That is wrong and always has been.
But the states and the federal government have really missed the boat on these mandated IDs. The required documents should be available to our citizens for free or at cost.
The national Real ID program is not scheduled for full implementation until 2017, so there is time to correct these practices and reduce the hassle for the great majority of good citizens who are exactly who they say they are.