Terrorism Law Takes Married Women’s Drivers Licenses

Women in the state of Georgia have been losing their drivers licenses after getting married or divorced and changing their names, owing to problems complying with the federal Real ID Act. Essentially, the law requires that names on drivers’ licenses match those on Social Security cards and many women are changing their name on one but not the other and getting caught in administrative snafus. The AJC report has no data quantifying the problem, other than to say that, “Two years ago, Driver Services officials said they were sending out as many as 5,000 warning letters a week.” How many of those resulted in cancellations, though, is not reported.

What’s interesting to me is that, well into the computer age, we’re still having trouble syncing up databases for such routine matters. There’s simply no reason that things like name and address changes shouldn’t be able to be made at a central location, with appropriate security measures implemented, and then instantly proliferated throughout the system.

My wife and I got married just shy of two years ago and there are still places where she’s registered under her maiden name. Every credit card company, bank, and state, local, and federal agency requires original copies of the marriage certificate and the filling out of various forms in order to affect the change. It’s simply ridiculous.

(And, yes, women keeping their names would be a simpler solution to the problem. There are, however, all manner of practical and cultural barriers to that.)

UPDATE: Steven Taylor estimates that “most of these policies have done a far better job of making it more difficult for everyday Americans to pursue their lives than they have in stopping terrorists in pursuing theirs…”

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Terrorism, US Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. yet another example that raises the question: who have most anti-terrorism policies annoyed the most, terrorists or American citizens….

  2. Bill H says:

    (And, yes, women keeping their names would be a simpler solution to the problem. There are, however, all manner of practical and cultural barriers to that.)

    But which are diminishing, as the practice is becoming more and more common. Married at ages 54 and 50 in 1997, my wife and I have maintained two different last names with no difficulty at all. Other than when our friends decide, “We’re going over to the…”

  3. Alex Knapp says:

    The driver’s license issue is particularly annoying because the Social Security office will take a photocopy of your marriage license as proof of a namechange, but DMVs require a “certified copy” from the county recorder. What’s particularly ridiculous is that this HAS to be a certified copy–they will not accept an ORIGINAL wedding license as proof of name change.

  4. Steve Plunk says:

    Is this the case of a bad terrorism law or just the exposure of inept state government bureaucracies? I would choose the later.

    The reputation of state DMVs is a well deserved one. Let’s put the blame for this SNAFU where it belongs.

  5. Michael says:

    What’s interesting to me is that, well into the computer age, we’re still having trouble syncing up databases for such routine matters. There’s simply no reason that things like name and address changes shouldn’t be able to be made at a central location, with appropriate security measures implemented, and then instantly proliferated throughout the system.

    Names and addresses should not be used as identifiers in a computer database in the first place. This is a Database Design 101 lesson, identity fields should never change, and data that could change should never be an identity field. All that centralized database needs is a unique ID, then every other database can have their own listed name and address, but all are tied together by the one unique ID.

  6. A perfect example of he law of unintended consequences at work here.

    Why I warn people who advocate a end to birthright citizenship, that they aren’t going to put an end to illegal aliens but rather create problems for US citizens. I can tell you how hard it is to get an incorrect birth certificate fixed from personal experience with my son. The idiots at St. Mary’s hospital(West Palm Beach FL) sent it in without Daniel’s name on it. Since Daniel died 14.5 hours after birth and didn’t get a SS# applied for, I needed this document for tax and insurance purposes.

    Bill

  7. bob in fl says:

    This is just one more reason for states to attempt to opt out of the REAL ID program, which they are doing in bunches.