Kansas no longer plans to require people renewing driver’s licenses to produce proof that they are living in the U.S. legally, Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan said Monday, confirming a policy shift with implications for the state’s administration of a separate proof-of-citizenship requirement for new voters. Jordan said in an interview with The Associated Press that the Department of Revenue, which oversees licensing, will develop a program in coming months in which drivers renewing their licenses can voluntarily present birth certificates, passports or other citizenship documents and have it noted on their licenses. Kansas law already requires people obtaining a new license to provide proof of their lawful residency. State officials previously had planned for such a requirement to be extended to all license renewals under a 2005 federal anti-terrorism law designed to make states’ licenses more secure. But federal officials recently declared that Kansas is among 20 states complying with the federal statute, even without requiring proof of legal residency to renew a driver’s license.
Many Kansas legislators had assumed the requirement would be universal for both renewing and obtaining a new driver’s license when they enacted a state law taking effect this year to mandate that new voters provide proof of their U.S. citizenship when registering. Lawmakers believed having the requirement in place for driver’s licenses would make it easier to administer the rule for new voters.
But the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, meeting resistance from states, repeatedly delayed implementation of the federal “Real ID” requirement for driver’s licenses. Jordan said his agency responded to concerns that some Kansas residents wouldn’t be able to produce the necessary documents — and would be without a valid driver’s license — as well as to cues from DHS that it wouldn’t, for example, block people from flying if they had a license that didn’t meet the federal “Real ID” policy.