DMV scofflaws imposing ‘Real ID’ after Legislature said ‘No’

Scores of people responded to my column last week, reporting they, too, were told they “had the wrong name” when they went to renew their Nevada drivers licenses.

Perhaps the most moving was that of an 83-year-old woman who moved here from Colorado to help her brother, who’s in a wheelchair and often can’t drive.

Vivian (she asked me not to use her real name) says “I know every word of your story is true, Vin, because it’s word for word what I went through. They said ‘Your name doesn’t match.’ I said ‘Doesn’t match what?’ They said ‘Your name doesn’t match.’”

Turns out the error-prone federal Social Security database links Vivian’s 9-digit Social Slave number to her maiden name. But she uses the surname of her second husband, who died four years ago — including on her current Colorado drivers license, which is about to expire.

“They told me to go to the Social Security office and have my name changed back to my maiden name. But I’m a Catholic; I believe I married my husband for life; I’m still married to him even though he died four years ago.”

The DMV refused to accept Vivian’s marriage license because it was issued by the church, signed and sealed by the priest who performed the marriage.

“A church document isn’t acceptable as ID,” confirms Tom Jacobs, the DMV flack who took my call when I tried to reach DMV Director Bruce Breslow. “There’s something wrong with that story,” Jacobs asserted. “There has to be a government document on file in the town where she was married.”

Nope. Vivian had her nephew go down to the Office of Vital Statistics in Colorado Springs — no such document.

So she spent $72 getting her picture taken at the post office and sending in her only birth certificate to the State Department in hopes they’ll send her a “passport card” which the DMV MIGHT accept — though she has only a few days left till her license expires.

“Then I guess I’ll just sit around the house,” she says.

“Just get yourself in compliance,” sneer the statists.

“I don’t have that money to spend,” Vivian replies. “When you live on Social Security, we haven’t had a raise in what, three years?”

But the most repulsive letters I got last week argued I had no right to criticize the DMV because “It’s the law; they’re just following orders.”

In the first place, are we really so far removed from the Second War that Americans can no longer recall the sarcasm that dripped from our lips when we used to parrot the defense that the Nazi concentration camp guards were “just following orders,” as were the German bureaucrats enforcing the laws that Jews had to sew yellow stars on their clothing and the Einsatzgruppen who lined up “undesirables” and shot them after having them dig their own mass graves?

But in the second place, the DMV is NOT obeying the law. The DMV is violating the law, or — at best — choosing to obey only the enactments they like.

“During my last session in the Legislature, we blocked the federal ‘REAL ID’ from going through in Nevada,” former state Sen. Bob Beers told me last week. “Kathy McClain and I did that, so just because you’re a Democrat doesn’t mean you can’t have privacy concerns.” (McClain is a Las Vegas Democrat.)

Although the 2007 Nevada Legislature did authorize approximately $750,000 to allow the DMV to begin meeting “REAL ID” benchmarks,” that same Legislature also “passed a resolution in 2007 urging Congress to repeal the act,” (citing cost and driver inconvenience) “and during the 2009 Nevada legislative session, the Real ID implementation bill died before reaching the assembly,” confirms Rebecca Gasca of the Nevada ACLU, at

Last year, Assembly Transportation Committee chair Kelvin Atkinson told the Reno News & Review, “We definitely didn’t fund it, and we were delaying it, waiting to see what the feds were going to instruct us to do because a lot of people felt like it was more than likely going away. É What we did was totally put it on the back burner.”


Lacking legislative approval, Gov. Jim Gibbons — who as a congressman voted twice for the “REAL ID” national ID card — in 2010 signed an emergency executive order instructing the DMV to go ahead issuing “REAL-ID-compliant” licenses, claiming the federal TSA grope squad might not allow Nevadans on planes if their state IDs didn’t match the new federal standards.

In fact, the Obama administration has backed away from any such unconstitutional threats (as well as the companion chestnut that the states could lose their highway funds — a threat that really needs to be answered with a suit before the U.S. Supreme Court, asking that such habitual blackmail be halted by ordering tire and gasoline dealers to remit their excise taxes directly to the STATE capitals.)

“I think that’s bad faith,” says Rebecca Gasca of the ACLU of Nevada. “I mean, if they didn’t actually need the legislature, then why was it considered by the legislature? The DMV tried, multiple times, to have the legislature consider pieces of (REAL ID) legislation. … It was soundly rejected.”

Emergency orders like Gibbons’ (for the record, there was no “emergency”) are good for only 120 days. So the DMV ran out of any justification to issue real-ID compliant licenses in April of 2010.

What’s their current excuse? Tom Jacobs simply claims they’re no longer issuing REAL-ID-compliant licenses.

“You went back to the 2009 Legislature looking for authorization to go forward, and they turned you down?”

“Correct, the Legislature was unwilling to do that so the governor gave us (temporary) authority, But the emergency regulations expired, so we stopped doing it and we have not issued a REAL-ID-compliant drivers license since April 2010.”

Funny. Several DMV employees at the North Decatur office told me last week, “We’re doing this because of the new federal law … because of 9/11” and “The federal government is having us do this so no one can steal your identity.”

“You’re requiring that names match the Social Security database, which matches the REAL ID requirement?” I asked Mr. Jacobs.

Yes, he says, but only because “it’s good security; we’ve been doing that for about two years now, since we got the capability.”

“You’re now requiring drivers who wear glasses to take their glasses off for their photos, just like ‘REAL ID’ asks you to do, for the facial recognition software?”

“Yes, that’s for the facial recognition,” he confirmed.

“You’re now storing a duplicate file copy of that photo, just as ‘REAL ID’ requires?

“Yes,” but that’s just a coincidence, Jacobs insists.

“The new licenses require a full residential address, where a mailing address used to suffice; they’ll have a scannable bar code that in future could be used to encode almost anything … how the heck are these NOT the ‘REAL IDs’ that the Legislature told you not to create?”

In the first place, the 2007 legislative vote condemning “REAL ID” and urging that it be repealed was “non-binding,” Mr. Jacobs contends. And the way current DMV procedure differs from what “REAL ID” would have required is that they’re not “electronically archiving” the support documents motorists present, such as birth certificates.

Oh, whoop-de-doo.

Ms. Gasca of the ACLU told the News & Review that it’s been the DMV that has pushed REAL ID all along, applying for grants (more than $5 million worth, Mr. Jacobs bragged to me) and changing cost estimates to move implementation along, all in defiance of the 2007 legislature’s anti-REAL-ID resolution.

Former DMV director Edgar Roberts contended lawmakers were poorly informed when they adopted that resolution. “The decision was based on many assumptions and unknowns regarding the final rule,” he wrote last year.

Roberts and Gibbons contended all the 2007 Legislature was really concerned about was licenses using radio frequency identification (RFID) chips or any other technology capable of tracking people.

But “Just the mere fact that [RFIDs] are not in the ID doesn’t mean it’s not a federal ID,” Ms. Gasca told the News & Review. “Information will still be contained on the back of the card and is scannable. There are no prohibitions on how and who can scan that.”

During public hearings on the proposed changes, not one Nevadan testified in favor of adopting the “REAL ID.” Elected officials were also bombarded with phone calls — a grass roots campaign organized by the ACLU of Nevada and such unlikely allies as the Nevada Families Eagle Forum and Gun Owners of Nevada.

The DMV is part of the “executive” branch, so called because they can only “execute” laws enacted by the Legislature. They are granted no leeway to “figure” that a legislative joint resolution can be ignored because “They must have had their facts wrong at the time.”

The Legislature or Gov. Brian Sandoval — or both — should order the DMV to cut the crap, immediately.

They claim they stopped obeying the “REAL ID” edicts a year ago. Fine. Unless they can show that a nickname, middle name, or married name is being used for purposes of fraud, instruct them that Social Security numbers are confidential between U.S. citizens and that federal department; they have no right to ask for them, and no one has to “go get their name changed.” Instruct them to renew current or recently-expired drivers licenses in the name originally issued. Instruct them to seek only a mailing address suitable for sending renewal notices — our house or apartment numbers have nothing to do with our right to drive.

Illegals are driving around with bogus IDs and not getting arrested; none of this will inconvenience an illegal with a fake ID for as much as a minute.

Let them go back to taking photos of drivers who wear eyeglasses with their glasses ON (assuming we need photos on our “licenses” at all — it seems to me a certificate that we once passed Driver’s Ed should suffice.) Get rid of the scannable bar codes.

The Legislature said “No.” So stop telling us you’re “just obeying the law.” You’re not.

5 Comments to “DMV scofflaws imposing ‘Real ID’ after Legislature said ‘No’”

  1. Ryan Beito Says:

    Dear Vin,

    First of all, I’m a big fan of your commentary. I’d like to add a comment on your DMV scofflaws imposing ‘REAL ID’ column from Sunday, May 1, 2011. I wish I could remember the exact date when I took my trip, but it had to be sometime after 04/18/2009 and 01/29/2010. I’m from Minnesota and I flew back to visit family and friends. On my return trip I flew out of Sioux Falls, SD. While going through security (to check my Nevada ID with my boarding pass) the TSA security guard stopped me because he did not recognize my ID. He asked me “where did you get this?” To which I replied “Nevada.” He then pulled out his pocket guide book of pictures for valid ID’s in the United States……Mine wasn’t in the pamphlet. His pocket guide showed two Nevada ID’s, the old one, which was basically a piece of paper that was laminated and one I didn’t recognize (I’ve only lived in Las Vegas for 10 years). He had to call over his supervisor to check my ID. After 5-10 minutes of waiting while holding up the line for other passengers, the supervisor showed up, looked at my license, and with a waving motion of his hand waived me through saying “whatever.” After reading you column, I looked at my license. No where on it does it claim to be a REAL ID. Nor was I told it would be a REAL ID. However, I have a restriction; A – Corrective Lenses and had to take off my glasses for the picture. I also have my physical address including my apartment number. It also has to types of bar codes on the back. It was issued on 04/18/2009 There’s two pictures of me on the front, one is smaller than the other. It also has what appears to be holograms on the front, kind of what water marks look like on our currency. So I guess when I go to renew in 2013 I’ll have to ask if this is a REAL ID? Nothing on the license states that it is a real ID. If it is, why doesn’t the TSA recognize it as an official ID in their pocket guide? What kind of license will I get when I renew? Will we be going back to the old ID or will we have to use this new one that the TSA has yet to recognize?

  2. Jerry A. Pipes Says:

    Preach on, brother Vin.

  3. idahobob Says:


    Maybe you should seriously consider a change of AO.

    Ya think?


  4. Burke101 Says:

    The question is, which movie are we in? 1984 or Brazil?

  5. Rita Hickey Says:


    I am a big fan of your column. Keep up the good work!

    I was shocked to read about the DMV and “Real ID”. My husband and I (and many others) spent countless hours last year testifying against Real ID. We thought we won the fight! How can a government agency loose this battle and implement it anyway? How are they getting away with this? Is there anything we can do? The ACLU was against this, why aren’t they doing anything I wonder. Any suggestions?