Early rollouts of Real ID lead to long waits and delays

Screenshot driver waits for Real ID

Chad Castle of Versailles waits with his daughters Mya, 2, left, and Madalynn, 5, at the Woodford County Courthouse Annex in downtown Versailles on Tuesday as he tries to get a travel driver’s license. | Photo by ALEX SLITZ/Lexington Herald-Leader

By Emily Laytham | Lexington Herald-Leader

Early rollouts of the Real ID system have led to longer wait times and mass delays for Kentuckians seeking to renew or obtain their licenses in two pilot counties.

The system, which includes more stringent requirements for driver’s licenses used to board domestic flights and visit military bases, has been rolled out in Franklin and Woodford Counties.

So far, the results show a slower system and more packed clerk’s offices.

“Before the process, we didn’t really have a line. You’d maybe wait five minutes,” said Christie Edwards, Woodford County’s circuit clerk. “Now, they’re waiting anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, and in some cases, an hour and a half.”

Once a Kentuckian starts working with a clerk’s office employee, the next steps take from 10 to 15 minutes or more, Edwards said.

The delays have increased as residents adjust to the new paperwork demands and clerks grapple with the amount of information the Real ID system requires.

Soon after reports of the system’s shaky start, the Transportation Cabinet announced that the federal government agreed to extend Kentucky’s deadline for meeting Real ID requirements – again. Full compliance would not be enforced until October 2020, more than two years after the first extension was granted.

Despite the extension, all Kentuckians will be able to voluntarily buy travel driver’s licenses by the end of 2019, according to Naitore Djigbenou, executive director of public affairs with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

The extension allows Kentuckians to use their standard licenses to board a plane until October 2020.

Djigbenou said the cabinet is monitoring performance in pilot counties and will make necessary improvements before moving forward with the full rollout in other counties.

She added that cabinet officials applied to the Department of Homeland Security for the extension before residents in Franklin and Woodford counties were allowed to get the travel version of the driver’s licenses.

Real ID laws were introduced by the 2005 Real ID Act and have been implemented gradually nationwide since 2013.

The standard license will still be accepted for driving and making age-restricted purchases after October 2020.

The travel driver’s license isn’t mandatory unless you want to board a domestic flight.

The other option is to use a passport alongside the standard driver’s license.

When Kentuckians in pilot counties are given the choice between a standard license and a travel ID, many chose the latter.

“Most are wanting to switch for the convenience,” Edwards said. “When it does become mandatory in October of 2020… you’ll only have to carry that one license with you, instead of having to have a license and a passport (to fly).”

Many people seeking a voluntary travel ID are not aware of what documents are required, according to Edwards. That confusion adds to wait times.

The requirements for a travel driver’s license vary based on several factors, including an individual’s citizenship status, veteran status and age.

Non-military U.S. citizens over the age of 18 are required to present one document proving their identity (such as a birth certificate or passport), one document providing social security information and two documents proving their residency (such as a paid utility bill or pay stub from the past 61 days).

Kentuckians can find their specific documentation requirements through the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s interactive guide.

The standard driver’s license and the voluntary travel ID will be available initially in four- or eight-year intervals with the prices ranging from $21.50 to $48.

Cabinet officials will update the Drive Kentucky website as dates for future county rollouts are announced.