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A reprieve – and pathways – to getting a Real ID

Sally Colleen Bodmer has always gone by the middle name on her birth certificate – but Real ID rules mean the cancer patient needs to get her name officially changed to Colleen if she wants to fly east to say goodbye to her sister. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

The coronavirus pandemic has given drivers a little breathing room when it comes to getting a Real ID.

Last week, the federal government pushed back the Oct. 1 deadline a full year, the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division closed all offices and Taxation and Revenue Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke said, “We are looking into what we can do to ensure that anyone whose license or vehicle registration expires through no fault of their own during the closure is not penalized.”

One productive option for this forced free time? Get your Real ID paperwork in order for when the great bureaucratic machine resumes.

There are still almost 450,000 New Mexicans with “legacy licenses” that have yet to expire and thus still have to go through the process, according to Tax and Rev spokesman Charlie Moore. That matters because when the 2005 federal law is enforced, all passengers will have to have either a Real ID license or a valid passport to board a commercial flight.

Also caught up in the new rules? Many folks who just want a license to drive, as well as those whose licenses have already expired because their life overtook the bureaucracy – folks such as Colleen Bodmer.

Born Sally Colleen Eleanor Sullivan in Colorado more than 70 years ago, Colleen says she never liked her given first name and has been Colleen as long as she can remember. Every document she has, save for that birth certificate, says Colleen, including her marriage license.

Her New Mexico driver’s license expired last year while she was busy fighting what is now Stage 4 cancer. And while drivers have up to a year after expiration to apply and get a Real ID license, the fact that the name on all of her other documents does not match the name on her birth certificate has prevented her from getting one. Now, she says, “This cancer is probably going to take me out. (I just need to) show I am who I am. I can’t get on a plane.”

And she’d like to fly to see her sister in the Chesapeake Bay area and say goodbye – once the pandemic has abated and regular commercial air travel has resumed.

Real ID paperwork

A full list of accepted documents is at mvdonline.com. The basics are: one proof of identity (a certified copy of your birth certificate or valid passport). One proof of ID number (your Social Security card/W-2/1099/pay stub). And two proofs of residency with your name and physical address (a utility or credit card bill or bank statement.)

Applicants for a non-Real ID/standard license can use their current license, among other things, to show their age and identity. They do not need to show proof of ID number. They do also need two proofs of residency.

But for either a Real ID or standard license, your name has to match on all documents. You can have a middle initial on one and middle name spelled out on another. There just can’t be contradictions.

And if your name has changed through marriage, divorce or a court order, you need to provide an official copy of that document, as well.

Easy name change

Drivers who can’t come up with documents that have the same name on each have a few options.

First, the easier of the two.

Those with a New Mexico birth certificate who simply need their Spanish name Anglicized, their first and middle names reversed, or a misspelling corrected can get it done by presenting two forms of documentary evidence and $10 to a state Department of Health office. Like MVD, those offices are also closed, but you can go to nmhealth.org or call 1-866-534-0051 for information so you are ready when they reopen. (The recording says the office is taking messages.)

More complex fix

Those with a birth certificate from another state or more complex name issues need to go to court for a name change. In Bernalillo County, Judge Lisa Chavez Ortega is one of the civil judges who handle name-change filings and is a font of information for streamlining your request.

And while the process might seem intimidating, she says the court handled around 1,300 of these cases last year, “the vast majority without an attorney” involved.

She recommends folks first download the required forms at seconddistrictcourt.nmcourts.gov/change-of-name-adult. Clicking on the link “change of name – adult procedure” will give you a step-by-step guide through the process.

Chavez Ortega says a name change for Real ID boils down to a trip to court ($132 filing fee), a trip to get your notice of name change published ($80-$90 for two weeks in the Journal), a trip back to court to have a judge approve your request and a visit to the County Clerk’s Office to file your name change ($25 filing fee). New Mexico’s courts are under order to do as much as possible by phone but can schedule in-person hearings as needed with social distancing precautions. In Bernalillo County, call 841-6702 for information.

And when the MVD reopens, drivers can take that certified copy of the name change court order along with other Real ID documents and pay $18 for a four-year or $34 for an eight-year Real ID license (drivers older than 79 get theirs for free but have to renew annually).

The good news is you have to get a Real ID only once, the courts are still processing name changes and drivers who are not facing a health-imposed deadline like Colleen have some breathing room to get their documents in order. Fingers crossed, the public health precautions that have been taken mean New Mexico’s bureaucracies will reopen safer and sooner, getting drivers their licenses and Colleen on her way to Chesapeake Bay.

As she says, that will be “a beautiful place to be.”

 

UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to editorial page editor D’Val Westphal at 823-3858 or dwestphal@abqjournal.com. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

 

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