OKLAHOMA CITY — State officials said Oklahomans will finally be able to obtain state identification cards that comply with federal law starting July 1.
State leaders had promised to have Real ID-compliant driver licenses available to the public by April 30, but that rollout faced delays. The COVID-19 pandemic shuttered state agencies and postponed work with the state’s vendor, said Chip Keating, state secretary of public safety.
Even though Oklahoma now has until October 2021, state officials said Thursday they’re committed to having federally compliant cards available well before then.
Keating estimated about 600,000 Oklahomans will need to obtain a federally compliant license by the deadline.
Until then, Oklahomans will still be able to use their state-issued identification to hop on planes and enter military bases or other federal facilities.
Once the extension expires, any Oklahomans without federally compliant IDs who are trying to visit military bases or flying domestically will be turned away. That’s because their state identification won’t stand up to federal requirements adopted more than a decade ago.
Those without federally compliant cards will have to flash U.S. passports or another valid form of federal identification.
As of Thursday, Oklahoma was one of two states that was still not Real ID compliant, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Oregon is the other.
Oklahoma lawmakers long bucked the Real ID law — even going so far as passing a law prohibiting the Department of Public Safety, which oversees driver licenses, from complying with it. Signed by President George W. Bush in 2005 after 9/11, the federal law seeks to fortify state procedures to confirm people’s identities and to ensure that states are not giving licenses to terrorists.
At one point, the federal government offered to help pay for the implementation, but lawmakers rejected the help. In 2017, when Gov. Mary Fallin signed Real ID implementation into law, Oklahomans were expected to have to pay millions.
The federally compliant cards require more documentation and contain a gold star. Necessary documentation includes proof of residence and valid identification documents like birth certificates and proof of name changes.
Gov. Kevin Stitt has made Real ID implementation a top priority. He said this will ensure Oklahoma remains competitive, can attract new business and retain residents.
The Department of Public Safety is now testing the licensing software in an effort to work out any glitches before the program goes live to the public.
As of Thursday, the state had already issued 70 Real ID compliant licenses, said John Scully, the Department of Public Safety commissioner.
Two of those went to Gov. Stitt and his wife. For the media, the couple demonstrated the licensing process, which took about 30 minutes to complete.
Keating said he anticipates the times will get faster.
“Look, we’re all learning this too,” Keating said. “We’re going to get better with time. By July 1, when the whole public is coming through, we absolutely anticipate those times coming down.”
Initially, Stitt said select locations will be able to offer the cards. Eventually, he expects they’ll be available at most of the 250 tag agent locations statewide.
“We have a lot of training to do,” he said. “We couldn’t get our vendors in state. We couldn’t bring our folks in for training, but we’re starting to do that and we should be ready July 1.”
Oklahomans with current driver licenses will be able to visit tag agents to obtain a compliant card. Those who do not have an Oklahoma license will have to go to one of the state’s 33 driver license locations.
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach her at email@example.com.