Jennifer Brooks
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One thing unites Minnesotans across every political, social and regional divide in this state, and that’s the line for a new driver’s license, now serving: not you.

Nobody likes the line.

Nobody wants to be in the line.

Nobody spends more time in the line than the Minnesotans who’ve made multiple return trips, juggling taller and taller stacks of documents, hoping each time they’ve hit on the correct paperwork combination that will get them a real Real ID.

Spine-tingling tales of suspense, horror and unembossed marriage certificates pour into the Star Tribune anytime anyone writes about Real ID.

And we write about Real ID a lot, because if you don’t get one by Oct. 1 this year, the airport security line will be an even bigger headache than the one at Driver and Vehicle Services.

Marilyn Hall’s original marriage license wasn’t real enough for a Real ID.

“I was told the original of my marriage license wasn’t proof of a name change because it wasn’t embossed,” wrote Hall, who made two trips through the line in New Brighton, each time with more documents than required, just in case. “Back in the [1950s] they didn’t emboss them.”

It took two more trips to two different county courthouses, plus a $9 fee, to get an embossed copy of her marriage license.

“Next time I stand in line I wonder what I’ll be told,” she said. “Maybe I don’t want to fly anyway.”

Mike Shields’ Social Security card wasn’t real enough for Real ID.

Shields runs a data security company, IdentiSys Inc., that, among other things, sells those electronic boards that tell you when someone 30 spots ahead of you is being served. He had ample time to watch the system in action during the nine hours, across four different trips, it took to get his Real ID.

“A total mess,” he said. The first time, they rejected the Social Security card stub the federal government issued him along with his original card. The next visit turned out to be a location that issues only duplicate licenses. The third trip ended in a frustrating wait and an announcement that the Real ID system was down “nationwide.”

Fourth time was a charm. Now he can relax for the estimated eight weeks it will take the system to process and mail him a new driver’s license.

There are things Minnesotans can do to ease the pain. You can pre-apply and fill out paperwork ahead of time. You can review detailed lists of the documents that will get you a regular, enhanced or Real ID.

But even Minnesotans who did the reading and prepared all the documents found trouble. A utility bill that was supposed to be proof of residence, rejected because it also had a roommate’s name on it. A printout of a W-2 form that wasn’t as good as the real thing. A birth certificate that just didn’t look quite right.

Marilynn Forsberg can’t understand why the documents that were good enough to get her a U.S. passport aren’t good enough for a Real ID.

“After looking at all my documents that I had in hand, the clerk told me that my copy of my marriage license did not have an official stamp so they could not use it,” she wrote. “Really? And I’ve had the same last name for 60 years.”

The clerks at Driver and Vehicle Services are trying hard, of course. Very little of this is their fault. They didn’t design the computer system, and they certainly didn’t write the laws about embossed vs. unembossed marriage licenses.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Mixed in the pile of stories of frustration was a note from a snowbird.

“My wife and I became Florida residents 11-22-19,” wrote Mike Scarborough, sometimes of Alexandria. “We walked out of the government center with 2 cars registered/titled, voters registration complete, homestead credit given, and we hit the street with two new plates for the cars and each of us carrying our new Florida Real ID driver’s licenses. … Time for this? Not quite 90 minutes! Really.”

Now, turning Minnesota from a state that slowly processes and mails licenses from a secure central facility into one that hands you a license right there at the counter like a magician would require an act of the Legislature.

Acting on things hasn’t been the Legislature’s strong suit recently, but it’s a new year and a new session is scheduled to start Feb. 11.

If you’d like them to make life in line a little easier, you know where to find them.

To make life in line easier in the meantime, learn more about Real ID at dps.mn.gov.