Over half of Charles County residents have REAL ID licenses

Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration director Chrissy Nizer listens to a question during last week’s visit by state transportation department officials to discuss investments in local transportation infrastructure. Nizer said that over half of Charles County’s residents have IDs that meet strict new federal standards.

With less than a year to go before all state residents are required to have drivers licenses or identification cards that meet federal standards for authenticity, more than half of Charles County residents have IDs that meet those standards.

As of Nov. 1, 54% of county residents are in compliance with the Real ID requirements issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, according to Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration director Chrissy Nizer. That’s the fourth-highest compliance rate in the state.

“We want to make sure we have confidence that when somebody presents that drivers license, that identity’s been verified, they are a resident of the state of Maryland and we have confidence that the card was issued with the highest of standards,” Nizer told the Maryland Independent.

Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 based on a recommendation by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also called the 9/11 Commission, to set nationwide standards for identification in order for people to be able to gain entry to federal buildings, enter military bases and board commercial airline flights. Maryland was among the first states to issue compliant licenses and IDs starting in 2009, and was the first state in the nation to be re-certified.

Real ID-compliant licenses and IDs have a star-shaped logo in the upper right-hand corner. The logo varies from state to state, but in Maryland the logo is a transparent star on a black circular background.

MVA has been ramping up its efforts to contact residents by mail, phone and email to schedule appointments at the Waldorf office to present the required documents to be scanned. Residents need to provide MVA with documents that show proof of their age and identity, their Social Security number and their residential address. The entire process takes an average of 15 minutes or less.

Once MVA contacts a resident, they have six months to schedule an appointment. The agency is staggering the notifications based on license and ID expiration dates to help spread out the appointments and avoid a last-minute crush.

“We’ve definitely seen an additional volume starting at the beginning of 2019,” said Nizer, who visited Charles County last week with other Maryland Department of Transportation administrators as part of a statewide tour. “We know people don’t want to come in [to the MVA] when they don’t think they have to [or] when they’re not up for renewal. We understand that, but the least we can do is make it as easy as possible. That’s really our goal.”

Administration spokesperson Whitney Nichels told the Maryland Independent that over 1,000 appointments per week are available at the Waldorf facility.

“The appointments have been very well received, so we’ve expanded the number of appointments that are available,” Nizer said. “We now have over 20,000 appointments available a week statewide. That’s been increasing as we learn more information about customers’ interest in the appointment process.”

Nizer noted that some licenses and IDs that were issued early in the program are not compliant with the current law because the document requirements changed after the licenses were issued. The motor vehicle administration has been contacting residents with those licenses to ask them to come in for another appointment to provide the additional documents.

Del. Eric Ebersole (D-Baltimore, Howard) has said he will be introducing legislation during next year’s General Assembly to ensure that drivers with those older licenses will not have them confiscated if they are pulled over by law enforcement before they can submit their new documentation. The Maryland State Police has said that its officers have been instructed to tell those drivers that they need to return to the MVA as soon as they can to correct the discrepancy.

Charles County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Diane Richardson said that sheriff’s deputies would follow a similar procedure. “If we get a notification indicating the person is in need of a [Real ID], we will simply let the person know to contact MVA,” Richardson said in a written statement.

“We don’t want to take any action on your license, we just want to get you into compliance,” Nizer said.

St. Mary’s and Calvert counties are not far behind Charles County in terms of Real ID compliance, at 52.8% and 52.3% respectively, according to Nichels.

Nizer said that it’s important for people to follow the instructions on the MVA website carefully to ensure they bring the right forms of identification with them, otherwise they will have to come back for another appointment.

“Sometimes hospitals issue [documents] that are called a birth registration or notice of birth,” Nizer explained. “They are not official documents because [parents] can change the name within the first six months of the child being born.”

Another common mistake is not providing documentation of a name change. “We have a name-change wizard on our online document guide that walks you through the process to make sure you have all the documents to link your names,” Nizer said.

The Department of Homeland Security has set a deadline of Oct. 1, 2020, by which all state-issued licenses and IDs must be compliant with the federal Real ID law. Nizer said her agency planned to continue working right up to the deadline to ensure that it reaches as many Maryland residents as possible.

“In terms of our customers, really what we’re focused on is providing as much notice as possible to ensure that they’re aware that we need them to come in,” Nizer said. “Our goal is to get everyone into compliance, and we will continue to reach out to them to make that happen.”

More information on Real ID requirements can be found on the MVA website at www.mva.maryland.gov/realid/.

Twitter: @PaulIndyNews

Twitter: @PaulIndyNews