Some Mainers are having trouble buying beer, picking up a prescription or cashing checks with their new state identification cards.

The problem is rooted in Maine’s Real ID law, which allows residents to choose between a conventional driver’s license or identification card, or a new version of a license or identification card that meets federal Real ID standards.

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles began offering both types of identification on July 1, but the cards that don’t comply with Real ID standards are marked with bold black letters in the upper right corner: “NOT VALID FOR REAL ID PURPOSES.”

That warning is creating problems at the checkout counter, where some cashiers, bank tellers and others who require identification for the purchase of alcohol, cigarettes, check cashing or other transactions are rejecting these licenses.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, who oversees the BMV, issued a statement Thursday in an effort to clear things up.

“All retail cashiers, pharmacists, bank tellers and others who must review customers’ identification before completing a transaction need to know that when they see an ID that says, ‘Not valid for Real ID purposes,’ that ID is still valid to complete their transaction,” Dunlap said.

A conventional driver’s license costs $30, while one that meets Real ID standards costs $55. So far, only about 20 percent of Mainers renewing their licenses are opting for the federally compliant version, said Kirsten Muyszinski, spokeswoman for Dunlap.

Beginning in October 2020, a Real ID identification or U.S. passport will be required for domestic air travel and to enter certain federal facilities, such as military bases or naval shipyards.

Maine was among the last states to comply with the federal Real ID law, which was put in place after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and requires digital photos on state driver’s licenses, IDs that can be used with facial recognition software, and the digital archiving of identity documents such as birth certificates or Social Security numbers, among other requirements.

In 2018, when the Legislature finally passed a law to make the Maine’s drivers’ licenses and identification cards comply with Real ID standards, lawmakers included provisions that allowed people to opt out of getting Real ID identification.

The Real ID features a star embedded inside a gold circle in the upper right corner of the card, and the letters “USA ME.”

Although a conventional Maine license won’t get travelers on a commercial airline after October 2020, they can still be used in Maine as proof of age to buy alcohol, Dunlap said. His office is also now issuing supplemental cards for holders of the non-Real ID compliant licenses that say the card is legal for use in Maine.

Nikki Hernandez, a manager at Roopers Beverage and Redemption on Sabattus Street in Lewiston, said clerks at the liquor store have seen the new licenses and identification cards.

“At first it did cause a little confusion,” Hernandez said, adding that no customers had been turned away, “But I’ve kept up with it because I travel myself, so have been paying attention. So we’ve talked it through with all our employees.”

The store is part of a multistore chain in Androscoggin and Oxford counties.

Muszynski, the secretary of state’s spokeswoman, said many Mainers, including those who have a passport or don’t need to board commercial airlines or enter federal facilities, have no need for a Real ID in day-to-day life.

“The option to opt out of Real ID is important to many people, for various reasons,” she said in an email. “Some have passports and therefore do not need a Real ID to travel domestically on airlines. Some do not want to pay the extra fees because they do not need to travel by air or enter secure federal facilities. Some have concerns about sharing copies of their identity documents and are choosing not to do so by retaining their current type of ID.”

Mainers with identification that doesn’t meet Real ID standards can request a copy of an additional wallet card explaining the identification by calling the Secretary of State’s Office at 626-8400.

The additional wallet cards also will be available at the Bureau of Motor Vehicle offices later this month and, going forward, will be provided with every renewal or first issuance of non-compliant driver’s licenses and state identification cards for a one-year period.

 


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