Three Tennessee counties will begin issuing secure driver’s licenses this spring in an effort to crack down on fraud.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that the new process for licenses is being piloted at the Hamilton County Clerk’s office, as well as two driver service centers in Sumner and Roberson counties.
It will involve checking the identity of people who apply for or renew their licenses, and means people will leave with a paper interim license while their photo is run through a database and checked against 12 million other images.
“It is compared to many other faces to make sure you are who you say you are,” said Lori Bullard, assistant commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. “It has a measure of security.”
A plastic laminated copy of an applicant’s driver’s license will be mailed about a week later.
Bullard said the added safety measures, called “central issuance,” will help crack down on fraud and identity theft. It will also verify where an applicant resides.
Equipment for the new process was installed this month at the Hamilton County Clerk’s office.
“It’s going to be a major change for our office,” said County Clerk Bill Knowles. “It’s going to be a change for the public.”
The move comes as part of a five-year effort to change how licenses are issued. It stems from the Real ID Act, which Congress passed in 2005, requiring states to have stricter, uniform requirements to issue licenses. A deadline for meeting the restrictions has been extended without a firm date.
“Because it’s been put on hold, they may never go back to it,” Bullard said. “No one really wants to deal with this enforcement. It’s a hot potato.”
Tennessee’s Homeland Security Department decided to go ahead and implement it because it would curb fraud and help them prepare for Real ID in the future.