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The REAL problem with Kentucky's drivers licenses

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A test copy of a Kentucky Drivers License. A test copy of a Kentucky Drivers License.
Lowry Miller Lowry Miller

SHELBYVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The Commonwealth of Kentucky has sent in paperwork that could get the state a federal extension and make our drivers licenses valid for restricted government areas. Right now, they won't work in those places and unless changes are made, in a few years, Kentucky residents will need a passport or other approved forms of identification just to board an airplane. Right now, the physical security of the 141 county circuit court clerks drivers license bureaus is the holdup.

Putting your best face forward is no longer your only concern when getting your Kentucky drivers license. The Department of Homeland Security is phasing in a law called the Real ID Act to cut down on the chance that terrorists could get phony licenses.

Kentucky, unlike most states, doesn't have one agency that issues licenses. It has 120 Circuit Court Clerks with 141 locations. All of them must meet the 39 federal requirements set forth under the Real ID Act. Shelby Circuit Court Clerk Lowry Miller says there are advantages to Kentucky's local system.

"If you're on a local level you can help them to understand a little bit better because you know most of them and a lot of them you can work with them," said Miller.

As president of the state association of circuit court clerks, Miller says Kentucky already is pretty secure on the documents you need to show to get an ID.

"You've got to have your social security card,” said Miller, “you've got to have your birth certificate coming in."

In fact, state transportation spokeswoman Lisa Tolliver says the Kentucky license itself fits the federal requirements. It includes things like name, date of birth, gender and address on the license, as well as a security hologram on the laminate. All of those are required by the Real ID Act.

Where Kentucky falls short, Tolliver said, is making sure the locations where licenses are issued are secure. Transportation officials sent out a survey to the circuit court clerks across the state asking about building security and those are currently coming back in.

Miller said it asked for things like, "Do you have cameras? Do you have security at your doors? Do you have people working, those kinds of things."

Miller's licensing branch is in Shelby County's two-year-old judicial center so he says he was able to check off the requirements. Older buildings, he says, may have a tougher time.

"We came from a hundred year old building," he said. "It's pretty open. It was just a different time and era."

All of them, though, will have to get up to speed before the government feels comfortable with that drivers license we are all carrying.

Tolliver said they won't know the cost of beefing up security at license branches until those surveys come back and the transportation cabinet is considering other options if it proves too pricey.

If the state gets the extension it applied for - and the Transportation Cabinet believes that's likely - Kentucky IDs will be in the clear until October and then that extension can be extended.

Once Kentucky becomes Real ID compliant, state transportation officials say it's still not clear if everyone will have to get new licenses immediately, or if you can, for instance, fly with your old license until its regular expiration date.

Indiana is one of 20 states that are already compliant. Twenty-four states and territories have been granted extensions.

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