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Tougher ID Standards Already in Place

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

As we just heard, getting a driver's license may soon get a little more complicated. The spending bill passed today includes a requirement to show four types of ID when you arrive at the local Department of Motor Vehicles. Some places are already doing this, as NPR's Audie Cornish reports.

AUDIE CORNISH reporting:

A photo ID, proof of date of birth, Social Security card and a document proving you live where you say you do--that doesn't sound too bad. But ask people waiting in line at a downtown Washington, DC, DMV, and it gets a little more complicated.

Unidentified Woman #1: I brought passport. I brought birth certificate, Social Security card.

Unidentified Woman #2: I have maybe about six different things.

Unidentified Woman #1: I brought my lease for my apartment, Social Security card.

Unidentified Woman #2: See, I've got a new name, so I have a marriage certificate.

Unidentified Woman #1: I brought, oh, telephone bills.

Unidentified Woman #2: I have my former driver's license, which is from Guatemala. We'll see if it all works.

CORNISH: Narisa Hopkins(ph) and Mary Groover(ph) were both in the back of a line that was already out the door. In fact, this lunchtime line was already winding its way towards an information desk, where you could get information about whether you could join the line in the waiting room near the actual DMV window. Like the Real ID provision approved today on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, already asks for four pieces of identification. But the number of things that qualify under each category is long.

Unidentified Woman #3: Thank you for calling the District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles. You will need to bring your valid out-of-state license, immigration or travel documents, proof of Social Security number, such as Social Security card, a payroll document within the past 30 days...

CORNISH: At least 13 different items from a birth certificate to a refugee travel document qualify as proof of name and date of birth, while another eight prove your residency. And most DMV offices don't go around calling every single agency or company to make sure that they are real. Legal document examiners do some checking, but the federal government wants more. In fact, they want every state to authenticate every single document for every license issued. A state like Maryland already does some verification, but it's unclear how much more will have to be done under the new proposal. Buel Young is spokesman for the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.

Mr. BUEL YOUNG (Spokesman, Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration): Well, that's one of the things that because of the additional checks and trying to verify the authenticity of some of the documents that we might be required to accept that we don't already accept, that could impact the wait line.

CORNISH: Right now there are at least a dozen states that don't require people to prove their legal presence in the US in order to get a driver's license. The new law would end that practice. States would have to follow the federal guidelines, or the licenses they issue would be useless as federal identification.

As for longer lines, like the one at Washington, DC's, downtown DMV, Narisa Hopkins says she's prepared to wait.

Ms. NARISA HOPKINS: It would make things longer and probably more inconvenient, but at the end of the day I figure the government has to do what they have to do in the interest of, you know, the citizens and people that live here. I personally don't have a problem with it.

CORNISH: If the law passes, states would have three years to implement the new ID requirements. Audie Cornish, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Audie Cornish
Over two decades of journalism, Audie Cornish has become a recognized and trusted voice on the airwaves as co-host of NPR's flagship news program, All Things Considered.