DMV Director urges residents to obtain REAL IDs

COLUMBIA – With the deadline a little more than a year away, South Carolina residents should not wait to get their REAL IDs.

That’s the message from Kevin Shwedo, executive director of the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles.

Shwedo has been making the rounds in 2019, a year before a critical REAL ID deadline arrives Oct. 20, 2020.

At meetings around the state, Shwedo tells folks that their local DMV could quickly fill up with procrastinators seeking REAL IDs

“The idea is to get your REAL ID as rapidly as possible so that you don’t have to wait in line for six hours,” he said. “If the line is six hours [in Columbia], guess where they’re coming? To your DMV.”

Adopted in 2005, the federal REAL ID law “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses,” according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. IDs can be identified by a gold star in the top of the card.

Passed in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, REAL IDs are not mandatory for all citizens. They aren’t required to drive a car or vote in elections.

But they will be required to board airplanes, to enter military bases and certain federal buildings, such as federal courthouses.

U.S. passports or military IDs will also allow a person to board flights, though driver’s licenses remain the most common form of ID most people carry. That’s why Shwedo says he’s worried so few South Carolinians have upgraded to a REAL ID.

Shwedo implored people to update their ID card now. He outlined various hypothetical scenarios where delaying could cause major headaches.

“If you have a death in the family and you have to go to Tacoma, Washington on Sept. 30, 2020, you’ll get on a plane and make it out there,” Shwedo said. “But if you don’t have a passport, a military ID or a REAL ID, you’re going to be hitchhiking your way back. It is just that serious.”

Shwedo said another reason for acting now is the sheer volume of documentation required to obtain a REAL ID.

Persons are required to bring proof of identity, proof of Social Security number, two proofs of a current physical South Carolina address and proof of all legal name changes, if applicable.

It’s the fourth requirement that Shwedo said could be problematic, especially for women.

Calling REAL ID a “sexist law,” he noted that women who’ve divorced and remarried must provide proof of every past and present name change when applying for a REAL ID. Widowers who’ve changed their names face similar dilemmas, he said.

There is an alternative. Shwedo said the DMV can accept valid passports as the final name for women choosing that option.

“If you don’t do it, you’re going to have to make multiple trips to the DMV,” Shwedo said. “I don’t want to see you in the DMV any more than you have to be there.”

Many South Carolina residents can avoid long DMV lines and order a REAL ID online. Shwedo said this applies to anyone who obtained a driver’s license for the very first time after November 2010.

“I’ve got everything that I need from you,” he said. “I’ve got a million people that fall into that category.”

The state DMV website can be accessed at www.scdmvonline.com.