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Local DMV Doesn’t Set Policy

It has been reported lately in the news that some people are upset with the regulations that require one to submit documentation to the DMV to prove that the name on a birth certificate was legally changed to the name being used today, in order to obtain a Real ID compliant driver’s license. In many cases, this is a marriage certificate that would prove a legal name change at the time of marriage. People married multiple times would need to produce multiple marriage certificates as well as divorce decrees.

It has been argued that this is discrimination against women as men are not required to produce this documentation. It is true that women are asked for this documentation more often than men are asked, but this regulation applies to anyone with a name change. Many men also change their last name at the time of a marriage. Many men choose a different first or last name, for various reasons, and have it legally changed. All of these men must bring marriage, divorce or court records with them to the DMV to obtain a Real ID compliant driver’s license.

I am not writing this to defend the process but to explain why it has been implemented. The federal government is attempting to protect us from terrorists. The process was developed by the Federal Department of Homeland Security and they have instructed the New York State DMV on how to issue Real ID compliant driver’s licenses. The Commissioner of Motor Vehicles gives the county direction to implement the regulations. None of the regulations were developed at the county level.

I am fully aware of how burdensome these regulations can be, and at times how ridiculous they may seem, but the local DMV office is an agent of the state, taking directions from the U.S. government. We have no authority to deviate from the given regulations. We also get complaints about how confusing the instruction sheets are and how difficult that it is to find information on the DMV website. I will say that I agree with those people, I find it confusing as well. New York State manages the website and prints the instructions. We have no control over what is available there and we have no authority or ability to make changes.

Anyone who believes that these regulations are discriminatory and/or confusing should direct their comments and complaints to the New York State DMV in Albany and the Federal government, not to the local DMV representatives trying to do his/her job as they were trained.

Larry Barmore is the Chautauqua County Clerk.

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