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How to make getting your Real ID real easy

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Consider this a public service announcement.

Yes, another one.

Because you need it.

In story after story, column after column, the Journal has explained how to obtain a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or ID card without causing yourself – and the rest of us waiting behind you – real pain.

But if my recent visits to the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division are any indication, not enough of you have been paying attention.

So let me nag you again, because I care. And because you’re making it rough for the rest of us.

First, let’s recap. The Real ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, standardizes what is required in every state to obtain a driver’s license or ID card to protect us against terrorism, though many argue it does nothing but inflict more terror into our already unpleasant pilgrimages to the MVD.

That’s because under the Real ID Act we are required to present a specific set of documents – four in all – to prove who we are and where we come from.

Call it exasperating existentialism.

New Mexico has been issuing Real ID driver’s licenses and cards since Nov. 14 and is among 25 states in compliance with the federal act; 21 states have asked for extensions and four states are not yet in the compliance ballpark. Such IDs are necessary if you plan to fly on a commercial airline or enter a federal facility or nuclear power plant, as one does.

(If you don’t expect to do any of those things, or you are an undocumented immigrant, you might consider obtaining a driving authorization card, which requires fewer forms of identification.)

But seven months after its rollout, many New Mexicans haven’t a clue what Real ID requires, judging from the chatter, confusion and complaints apparent at MVD offices these days.

I’ve spent some time there lately, and I’ve heard it all – the shock and surprise, the indignation and anger, the groans from those who came informed and prepared but have to languish in line anyway behind those who need a crash course on what they should have brought with them.

Waiting has always been the way of things at most MVD offices. But thanks to the crush caused by Real ID, even private enterprises such as MVD Express and MVDNow – where you spend more money for spending less time waiting – have longer waits of late.

I can only imagine that working behind an MVD counter these days is something akin to slowly pulling out each fingernail after each fingernail is scraped across a chalkboard.

So bless those kind clerks who patiently counsel clients on why a landline phone bill is acceptable as proof of residency but a cellphone bill is not – never mind that more than half of all U.S. households rely only on cellphone service.

Bless them for showing compassion for the women with birth certificates or Social Security cards bearing names different than their married or divorced names.

Bless them for listening endlessly to the young customers cuss out the system because they have no mortgage, checking account or credit cards.

Last Saturday, I listened as one smiling clerk calmly worked with a young man who brought in a stack of papers, slapped them on the counter and asked her to go through them to pick what she “wanted” so he could get his driver’s license.

Twenty minutes later, she had whittled down his pile of documents, almost none of which was useful (handy tip: Dave and Buster’s Power Cards are not acceptable) and came up with a plan of what he should bring in.

She never stopped smiling.

All her efforts were for naught. As it turns out, the man’s driver’s license had previously been revoked over a drunken driving arrest, and he had yet to install an ignition interlock device in his car as required.

He also did not have a car.

So one last time, people: Know before you go, so the going goes faster – for everybody.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to to submit a letter to the editor.