Member Login

Op-Ed: REAL ID is Here to Stay but Is It Right for Me?


There has been a lot of chatter about Kentucky rolling out a new driver’s licenses to comply with the federal REAL ID Act enacted after the 9/11 terror attacks. The licenses are currently available in Franklin and Woodford counties. Northern Kentucky and other counties are expected to follow suit in the coming months. 

What I don’t want to get lost in the conversation is all residents of Kentucky don’t have to go through the hassle of getting the new REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses. I’m not planning to get one, and I suspect others might find the new type of licenses unnecessary too. 

If you don’t want a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, your current Kentucky driver’s license is still valid and will continue to be until its renewal date. When that time comes, simply turn in your old license for a new standard driver’s license. It’s no big deal because nothing changes with the renewal process if you choose to stay with the standard driver’s license. You can still use the standard license to:

•    Apply for or receive federal benefits

•    Access health and medical services

•    Participate in law enforcement proceedings or investigations

•    Operate a vehicle in Kentucky and across the country

•    Vote and/or register to vote

These facts also apply to commercial and motorcycle licenses, permits and state-issued personal identification cards.

You do not need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license unless you plan to board a U.S. airline flight or enter select facilities, like federal courthouses, nuclear power plants, the White House or military bases, after Sept. 30 of next year. But even then, a valid passport or passport card will allow you to enter any of these places. I plan to get a passport card and keep my standard driver’s license. A passport card can be purchased for $65 if you currently have a valid passport.

If you do get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, be mentally prepared. These new licenses are a drastic change from business as usual at your local circuit court clerk’s office. You are going to have to produce a birth certificate, Social Security card and proof of residency – even if the clerk behind the counter has known you for years. It will not matter if you are on a first-name basis. Please be patient with your circuit court clerks. This process is also complicated for them.

A big piece of information that circuit clerks across the state want the public to know is that they will no longer be the issuers of these credentials. The circuit clerk’s office is where the public will still go to get their documents processed. Once processed, the applicant will immediately receive a temporary paper credential, and will then receive their actual credential in the mail within 10 days.

Kentucky delayed complying with the REAL ID Act as long as it was possible. Many had wishfully thought the feds would abandon the mandate. That never happened and now Kentucky is racing to meet the federal deadline which is October 1, 2020. I did not originally support this act, but as your State Senator, I want to make this transition as easy as possible for my constituents.

I will continue to monitor Kentucky’s rollout and alert you of any relevant, new details. More information on obtaining a REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses, including costs and when they will be available in your county, is available at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet website

If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other public policy issue, I can be contacted by phone in Frankfort at 502-564-8100 ext. 617, or at home at 859-384-7506.  You can also reach me on twitter @Senatorschickel, or on Facebook at State Senator John Schickel.

State Senator John Schickel is a Republican from Union