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Only A Fraction Of PA Residents Have A REAL ID, But PennDOT Says That’s OK

Ted S. Warren
A sign at the federal courthouse in Tacoma, Wash., informs visitors of the federal government's REAL ID act, which requires state-issued driver's licences and ID cards to have new security enhancements that comply with legal U.S. residency standards.

Under federal law, Pennsylvanians have until October 1st to get updated IDs, or they’ll no longer be able to use their state identification to board planes or enter federal facilities and nuclear plants.

PennDOT said so far, only about 821,000 of the roughly 9.8 million people with state IDs and driver’s licenses have made the switch.

But spokesman Diego Sandino said even though it’s a relatively small number, the department believes it’s on track.

He noted, not everyone needs a REAL ID. Some may not have any plans to fly or enter federal buildings, and even if they do, passports and military IDs will work as a REAL ID substitute.

REAL ID comes with a $30 fee, on top of the regular $30.50 charge to renew a license.

“We really just want to make sure that we encourage Pennsylvanians to make a decision, a conscious decision, about Real ID before the deadline and well in advance,” he said. “That way, they’re not worried about it when the deadline comes.”

Real ID dates back to a federal law passed in 2005, in the wake of the September 11th attacks, that raised the security standards for state identification cards.

Many states—including Pennsylvania—pushed back.

The commonwealth passed a 2012 law explicitly barring Real ID compliance, then repealed it in 2017.

WESA will be surveying Pennsylvania candidates for federal and state office for the 2022 general election — tell us which issues are most important to you.