A rural Alaska senator is requesting Gov. Mike Dunleavy push to extend Alaska’s deadline for residents to register for REAL IDs, an idea Fairbanks Republican Sen. Click Bishop said he backs.
Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, represents the largest Senate district in the country, made up entirely of areas and communities in rural Alaska. His quarrel with the impending Oct. 1 deadline for REAL ID registration stems from concern that residents in rural areas may fall through the cracks, leaving them barred from air-travel outside of the state as well as other activities requiring a federally compliant identification card.
Congress approved the Real ID Act in 2005 in an effort to ramp up license security standards following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Since then, the country has been gradually phasing over to the REAL IDs — but progress has been slow.
According to regulation, Alaska residents must be registered or already have a REAL ID — or another form of federally recognized identification — in order to pass through security at airports or enter other federally secured areas such as federal court houses, social security offices and military basis, among others.
Olson, in a letter sent to Dunleavy on Tuesday, said he’s worried the Oct. 1 deadline does not provide enough time to reach residents who live in remote areas and off the road system.
“We have hundreds of villages and small communities with little or no access to transportation hubs. Rural Alaska is already at a disadvantage for travel,” Olson said.
“Without proper outreach to rural Alaska, many Alaskans won’t have access to travel for necessary medical care and family resources. This is an opportunity for Gov. Dunleavy to lead and look out for rural Alaska.”
Bishop said he supports Olson’s push for an extension. While Bishop’s Senate district is smaller than Olson’s, it too is made up of many rural communities in addition to areas of Fairbanks.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Bishop said. “It’s important to make sure all Alaskans have an opportunity to get signed up and if that means taking more time to do it then I can get behind that.”
The state DMV is requesting individual donations from Alaska residents in order to fund an outreach project to reach rural areas of the state. Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka told the Anchorage Daily News last month the state needs $60,000 to achieve the outreach they hope.
“We do have DMV locations out in rural locations, they’re just not out in the remote villages and areas of rural Alaska,” Tshibaka told the ADN. “We do have places, like in Dillingham and Bethel and Napakiak — we would just like to take DMV even further.”
Olson took issue with the state’s request for donations from residents to help support an initiative to reach rural communities for ID registration.
“Alaskans are not happy with this Administration’s desire to seek donations to implement a government program they do not want,” Olson said. “Gov. Dunleavy is extremely close with President Trump, and he should take advantage of that relationship to seek an extension so the state can figure out a proper path to reach all Alaskans — from rural to urban Alaska.”
The REAL IDs cost $40 and require an increased number of documents for verification including a passport or birth certificate to verify identity as well as a social security card to document verifying a social security number as well as two documents confirming Alaska residency such as a lease agreement and voter registration card.
More information can be found on the DMV website under the “License/ID” tab.
The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Olson’s letter.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.