Lisowski: REAL IDs, are they necessary?


Maximillian Lisowski

People inside the Ames Driver’s License Station sit with employees who offer various state services.

Maximillian Lisowski, Opinion Editor

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Monday that it will extend the REAL ID full enforcement date by 24 months, from May 3, 2023, to May 7, 2025. So, why is it taking so long to push out to the public, and is it really necessary? 

First, let’s look at when it was introduced. 

Passed by Congress in 2005 after the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation, its purpose was to set minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards to ensure people are who they say to be. 

As of 2021, the DHS announced that only 43% of all state-issued identification is considered REAL ID-compliant. Keep in mind that it wasn’t until 2020 that all U.S. states were finally compliant — which is likely a big reason why they’re extending its enforcement. 

But I think that its extension is more than just numbers. Poor timing is a big reason why states are having trouble getting these IDs into the hands of the American people. 

The pandemic did not help state governments when it came to administering REAL IDs. Many states closed their DMV field offices, while some required appointments to visit. This disincentivized Americans to go and seek out their new IDs, and the cost was another factor. 

In Pennsylvania, for example, a REAL ID would cost an additional $30, which put up another obstacle for those who were seeking to upgrade their own. While $30 does not seem like much, during the pandemic, it could go a long way — especially when many Americans were unable to work due to COVID restrictions. 

Another reason why the government doesn’t see more Americans with REAL IDs is that they are just not necessary. 

The only reason why you’d want a REAL ID is if you are a frequent flier and want to travel without additional documentation. It has no effect on your ability to fly or your voting rights, to name a few. So, if you have a passport and your driver’s license, you won’t have a problem if you decide a REAL ID isn’t necessary. 

Things could definitely change as we approach the 2025 enforcement date, but until then, don’t stress over updating the driver’s license you may have just renewed without its little shiny star.  

Unless you fly regularly and want a hassle-free experience, there isn’t much of a reason to get your hands on one for now.