Getting a Real ID turned out to be a Real Pain

Real ID licenses are intended to meet tougher planned federal security standards at airports and military bases.
Real ID licenses are intended to meet tougher planned federal security standards at airports and military bases. Observer file photo

Recently I moved to a continuing care residential community in Columbus, N.C. Soon after my move I went to have the address on my driver’s license changed. I was armed with a letter from the retirement facility attesting to the fact that I did indeed live in Polk County, and giving my physical address. We’ll refer to that later as Item A.

There was no problem in having the address changed, but I was told that unless I produced several other documents my license would bear the notation “Not Valid for Federal Identification.” If I produced the required documents my license would be good for federal identification, and it would have a gold star in the upper right-hand corner. Such licenses are said to be “Real ID.”

Two things immediately come to mind. First, this reminds me of elementary school, and second, were I a Libertarian I would look askance at government asking that I jump through yet one more hoop. But I said I would return with the proper documents.

So, I did the following. From the list of items that could be used to “prove my identity,” I retrieved my passport from my lock box. From the list of acceptable documents to prove my Social Security Number, I dug out my old Social Security card. And to prove my residency in North Carolina I carried in my voter registration card and the title to my car. (These were on a list of ten items.)

Now let’s just assume that there really is some reason that “Real ID” should be required at various places. (I’m told that after 2020 – if I remember correctly – a driver’s license without the gold star will not be acceptable for boarding an airplane.) But it seems fair to ask this immediately. If I hold a valid passport, why is that not sufficient to issue me a Real ID? If a Real ID is to be a federal identification, isn’t a passport the gold standard for such?

But here’s how things went at the Driver’s License Office in Columbus. The passport was good for proof of identity and the Social Security card was good for proof of Social Security. How could they not be? But the voter registration card showed my old address in Hendersonville – no good! Likewise, the title to my car showed the old address – worthless!

And here’s where we drop straight down Alice’s rabbit hole. Remember Item A, the letter from the retirement facility? A few days before I had used that document to change the address on my auto registration, and that registration – when it arrives in a few days – is acceptable to prove my residency in North Carolina. Likewise, in the process of changing the address on my now “Not Valid for Federal Identification” driver’s license I was asked if I would like to have my voter registration changed – on the basis of Item A. I did. What?

So, on the basis of Item A I can change my voter registration and the registration of my car, and then use those two items to get the gold star on my license. But Item A alone is not sufficient! If I were younger this would doubtless make me cynical. But old men are never cynical; they are bitter.