Taylorsville • Elvis Presley crooned the heartsick hit, “Return to Sender,” about an apology letter to an upset girlfriend that was returned saying her new address was unknown. The state of Utah feels that pain, 50,000 times over.
It sent out more than 1 million driver licenses sporting a new design needed to allow their use as identification at airports. But 50,000 came back — and the state is urging people to update their addresses online so they can retrieve their new licenses.
Without the new design — with a gold star in a corner to show the state has verified that the holder is a U.S. citizen or legal resident — people will have to use some other ID, such as a passport, at airports and federal facilities beginning a year from now on Oct. 1, 2020.
“The perfect storm that I can see is if you board an aircraft on Sept. 28 next year and leave the state of Utah without having that credential,” so you may not be allowed on the return flight, said Chris Caras, director of the Utah Driver License Division.
He notes that by law, people are supposed to notify the driver license division within 10 days when they change addresses. Obviously, at least 50,000 people haven’t done that.
“We know we’re not on top of everyone’s notification list, so we understand that doesn’t always happen,” he said. “This is, I think, a good illustration of why that’s so important.”
Actually, Caras said he had nightmares that the returns would be even worse.
“I will say that 50,000 is a lot,” he said. “That’s 50,000 individuals we don’t want to have problems. So we really are trying to do everything within our power to find a way to work through this.”
The division called a news conference Tuesday to discuss the problem, including showing reporters the 50,000 licenses that were returned.
He urges people to go to the division’s website, dld.utah.gov, where they can click on a tab titled “gold star license check.” They can enter their license number to check whether a new card was returned, and update their address there as needed.
Not all drivers were sent a new license. People whose licenses will expire before Oct. 1 next year will receive one with a gold star when they renew. That helps reduce printing costs.
The Legislature late last year allowed spending millions of dollars for the new licenses to solve a problem that arose because lawmakers in 2010 banned state officials from taking any further steps to comply with the federal REAL ID Act, as part of a protest over unfunded federal mandates.
But the Transportation Security Administration said it would no longer recognize state driver licenses as acceptable ID at airport security beginning next year, unless they were redesigned to include the gold star to show its officers at a glance that holders presented birth certificates or passports to prove citizenship to the state.
For a few years, such efforts to prove citizenship had prevented renewing licenses by mail and created long lines as drivers brought in documents in person.