October 1 is a deadline that will affect all Alaskans who travel by plane. That’s the day passengers will need a federally-recognized REAL ID-compliant form of identification in order to travel on a commercial airline.
It’s about nine months away, but the deadline is causing trouble for a lot of rural Alaska communities, many of which don’t have Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) offices, forcing residents to have to travel to other cities. Another concern is the documentation required to get a REAL ID.
Like many Alaskans in small communities, Noorvik mayor Verne Cleveland had to travel from the community of under 700 people to a city with a DMV. He opted for Anchorage.
“I tried getting my ID and I didn’t have no street address, no home number, no house number, nothing,” Cleveland said. “So I didn’t get my new card. And that’s a problem.”
There are several requirements needed to get issued a REAL ID. One of them is two documents showing proof of residence, with a physical address on them.
A couple of buildings in Noorvik have addresses, but Cleveland says none of the homes do. Locals rely on PO Boxes for mail. Cleveland says there had been efforts in the past from the local village government to establish home addresses in Noorvik, but they went nowhere.
Cleveland says if that requirement remains strict, he’s worried that no one in the village will qualify.
“And I told [the DMV] that we don’t have anything. All we have is PO Box numbers,” Cleveland said. “And that’s gonna be a big problem. And it’s not just gonna be in our areas. It’s gonna be in other areas.”
Among the forms of ID that are REAL-ID compliant are passports and federally-issued tribal ID cards with photos. While Cleveland says that many community members have those alternatives, he says the state should still be helping get those IDs to communities like his.
“I lucked out and had my passport, so that was no big deal,” Cleveland said. “But if this comes to where we’re gonna be travelling for ball games and we don’t have the ID, then we’re stuck at home.”
Interview requests made to state DMV officials and the state Department of Administration went unanswered, though last month, Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka requested Alaskans donate to the state DMV in order to help with getting rural residents their IDs.