Pushing through uncertainty for the truth about the Real ID


Come October 1, a new level of enforcement will come into play relative to the Real ID Act that Congress passed in 2005 in the wake of the terrorist attacks that rocked the country on Sept. 11, 2001.

It has taken the federal government 15 years to implement the act fully. The gradual process has been met by some confusion as each state has a different status. All states will need to be in compliance by Oct. 1, 2020.

The confusion has included whether a Real ID is needed to vote, with some spreading the word that, yes, such an ID would be needed to cast ballots. However, that is not true, said Suzanne Thompson, spokesperson for the Shelby County Election Commission.

A form of identification that meets increased security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards, the Real ID is aimed at eliminating airline terrorism by increasing requirements to obtain documents granting access to domestic planes.

To be in compliance, a driver’s license or state-issued ID card must have a gold circle and star in the upper right corner. An easy way to know if your card is not compliant is if it says “not for federal identification” or “federal limits apply.”

The Real ID’s purpose is to tighten controls on the comings and goings of travelers and it is necessary for anyone flying domestically. A passport can be used as a substitute. The document is needed when boarding planes, or when entering a federal facility like an army base, or a nuclear facility.

The Real ID can be obtained at the Shelby County Clerk’s Office at 150 Washington St., or at the Department of Motor Vehicles centers at 5266 Summer Ave. and 3200 East Shelby Dr.

“This is a federal initiative,” said Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert.  “Tennessee is late coming on board and the deadline to have a Real ID with a gold star is October 2020.”

The gold star shows on the front of your driver’s license, if you obtain it when your license is renewed. You can obtain the Real ID when renewing your license at no charge. It will cost the same as a license duplicate fee if obtained by itself.

You have to show up in person when receiving a Real ID for the first time.

The requirements for obtaining the Real ID are proof of citizenship or legal residence in this country, proof of your social security number, two proofs of Tennessee residency, and documentation of any name changes that has occurred.

All documents have to be originals or certified.

In a statement, the Rev. Dr. Earle J. Fisher, founder of UptheVote901 and a principal organizer of last year’s Memphis People’s Convention, said community organizers would have symposiums throughout 2020 on the Memphis People’s Convention agenda to cover ID issues.

“We will discuss other voter empowerment measures as well,” Fisher said. “To that end, we’ll be educating the community on issues of IDs, registration and other challenges.”