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Trib editorial: Easing the REAL ID rush

| Tuesday, March 6, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
A sign at the federal courthouse in Tacoma, Wash., is shown to inform visitors of the federal government's REAL ID act.  (AP Photo | Ted S. Warren, File)
A sign at the federal courthouse in Tacoma, Wash., is shown to inform visitors of the federal government's REAL ID act. (AP Photo | Ted S. Warren, File)

No matter how many times it's announced or how it will be set up beginning in September, Pennsylvania's switch to federally compliant identification cards could turn into a nightmare for state residents. But there are steps many can take now to mitigate any headaches.

Up to 3.5 million Pennsylvanians who got their first driver licenses after September 2003 can go online to PennDOT's Driver Services website and request pre-verification of documents already on file, clearing the way for those residents with complete documentation to receive their new IDs through the mail when they become available in the spring of 2019.

Pennsylvania had resisted the federal government's REAL ID rollout in 2005 and even passed a law in 2012, prohibiting officials from complying with the mandate. Then came the rub: Without a federally compliant ID, U.S. passport or military ID, Pennsylvanians would be prohibited from boarding commercial flights or entering secure federal facilities.

Those federally compliant IDs remain optional through Oct. 10, and Pennsylvania plans to seek another extension to that deadline. But all states and IDs must be in compliance no later than Oct. 1, 2020.

Without requisite documents — for example, U.S. birth certificate with a raised seal — the process of proving who you are can turn into a Kafkaesque nightmare (some states reportedly can take up to six months to process a duplicate birth certificate). Any opportunity to help expedite this process should be seized as the clock ticks down to an inevitable deadline.

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