This past April, my fiance Chris noticed a typo on his Washington state driver’s license. His name read “Christoper.” I replied with an outrageous laugh and nonsensical taunts: Christopurr the cat. Christo-per-usual. I was having a ball.

“I need the name on my license to match the name on my car title exactly to be able to ship my car overseas,” Chris explained, not even getting into the problems that may arise when applying for an overseas driver’s license. “And Washington requires me to go in-person to get this fixed—even though it was their error.”

My face dropped. Chris is in the military, currently stationed in southern Arizona for a class with his next assignment in Germany starting this fall. Going back to Washington would be next to impossible with his schedule, not to mention a wedding ceremony this summer.

“So, just get an Arizona license!” I told him. Problem solved.

“Arizona licenses won’t be valid with TSA next year,” he casually replied.

This is ridiculous, I thought. But as I began digging deeper to find out what the heck was happening, I realized it’s true. And still ridiculous. How can an entire state risk keeping its citizens grounded? It turns out, several are doing it. Travelers with driver’s licenses from Arizona, Maine, Louisiana, and New Hampshire (as well as American Samoa) may soon find themselves in a bind.

The REAL ID Act of 2005

It’s all because of the REAL ID Act of 2005, a set of federal standards passed after 9/11 aimed at making licenses harder to counterfeit. Several states, including Arizona, rejected the mandates. State law currently prohibits Arizona from complying with these federal requirements.

Accepting the REAL ID Act would mean accepting outside intervention in state affairs, say opponents, who feel the bill is too sweeping and intrusive. Some worry that this is a way for the federal government to create a national identity card. Others think it will act like a tracking device, recording people’s whereabouts and providing the government with a way to spy on them.

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