Oklahoma Real ID card

A sample of what Oklahoma's new Real ID-compliant license looks like.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Let’s start with a disclaimer.

Being one of the first 120 Oklahomans test-driving the state’s Real ID program isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I faced some blank stares, questions and rejection.

In early May, the Department of Public Safety asked if I’d be interested in obtaining an advanced copy of the federally compliant driver license for $25 as part of the first phase of a pilot program.

As DPS Capt. Randy Rogers put it: “We’re trying to solve issues and bugs before we get into the full rollout.”

More than 600,000 Oklahomans are expected to apply for a Real ID before October 2021. That’s when residents will need a federally complaint license to hop onto planes and enter military bases or other federal facilities.

Come October 2021, Oklahomans without those IDs will be turned away because their state identification card won’t stand up to federal requirements adopted more than a decade ago. Those requirements were designed to ensure states weren’t giving ID cards to terrorists.

Oklahoma remains one of two states that is not still Real ID compliant, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Rogers clarified that the Real ID program, which is expected to cost at least $34 million, won’t be rolled out statewide now until the end of the year.

State leaders had recently touted that the cards would be widely available in July, but Rogers said the program will be rolled out in chunks due to social distancing and training requirements in the COVID-19 era.

Within the next few weeks, tag agents in Edmond will be trained. The Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas will come next.

“For the most part, we will try to roll out in the larger areas and get them taken care of, but we also realize that we’ve got to take care of our rural communities as well,” Rogers said.

DPS officials are bracing for long lines at tag agencies due to the complicated federal requirements. It took me nearly 20 minutes to get qualified. They’re urging people who don’t plan to travel and don’t have an expiring license or who have a passport to wait until the initial rush passes.

Those who don’t bring the correct documentation will be sent home. The federal government is quite strict on what qualifies.

The night before my appointment, I raced around the house gathering up my birth certificate, marriage license, Social Security card and two official documents or utility bills that could prove my address. Those who have an unexpired passport in their legally married name can use that in lieu of the birth certificate and marriage license.

To prove my address, I tried to use the freshly minted letter from President Donald J. Trump congratulating me on my recent stimulus check and a property tax bill.

The letter from Trump was rejected. (DPS officials later said they’d accept it going forward.) Luckily, I also brought my voter ID card as a backup.

When all my documentation was scanned, DPS printed me out a paper temporary black-and-white license, saying that it would take seven to 10 days for the permanent license to arrive by mail.

When the pilot program ends, DPS plans to either take or punch a hole in the original license to invalidate it. In my case, I was urged to keep the original in case I ran into any problems.

I did.

When I produced the temporary driver license at my bank, the teller scoffed and said that ID wouldn’t fly.

“These can be easily printed out,” she said, calling over the branch manager to discuss the situation as the line grew restless behind me.

I was told no reputable banking institution or loan company would accept a temporary ID like Oklahoma’s. The manager asked curiously why the state wasn’t using a counterfeit stamp or notary to validate it.

In general, most people who looked at the new temporary paper ID told me how easy it would be to counterfeit at home.

“DPS looked into anti-counterfeit measures on the temporary license, but they were all cost-prohibitive,” said agency spokeswoman Sarah Stewart.

My bank apparently isn’t the only one rejecting the paper license.

“Currently, that temporary paper license is not accepted as a form of Real ID by the Transportation Security Administration,” Stewart said. The TSA runs airport-screening checkpoints.

“We recommend that if Oklahomans have plans to fly and they need that Real ID, to allow sufficient time for the actual license to come in the mail,” Stewart said.

Officials with Enid’s Vance Air Force Base said they haven’t yet received any guidance about whether they’ll accept the paper licenses.

Stewart said Oklahomans should hold onto their old hole-punched plastic license until their new Real ID comes in the mail.

“That old license should be sufficient identification for any locations you may need to visit until receiving the Real ID in the mail,” Stewart said.

My permanent, plastic Real ID arrived in the mail 13 days after I first applied.

It has a picture of the state Capitol in the background. A gold star shows that it’s federally compliant. It has some nifty holographic images to prevent counterfeiting.

My license is still set to expire next year, but when I return in 2021, I’ll only have to bring two proofs of residence and $38.50 — the full cost of license renewal.

Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at jstecklein@cnhi.com.

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