La. creates new design for driver’s licenses, ID cards

Provided photoLouisiana's newly designed driver's licenses and ID cards now feature a ghost image of the holder in the lower left corner. Show caption
Provided photoLouisiana's newly designed driver's licenses and ID cards now feature a ghost image of the holder in the lower left corner.

The state is adding a ghost image to the new Louisiana’s driver’s licenses being rolled out across the state.

The idea is to make the licenses more secure and harder to duplicate, said OMV Commissioner Stephen Campbell, of the state Office of Motor Vehicles.

But the new design does not make the licenses compliant with the federal Real ID, which starting in 2016 could be required to use driver’s licenses as identification to board a plane or enter a nuclear power plant facility.

The new security features are linked to each other and include a tri-color overlay, multi-colored fine line printing and a “ghost” image of the driver’s photo. Louisiana last updated the identification cards in 2001.

“We’re rolling it out in Baton Rouge and to tag agents in Slidell and Metairie,” Campbell said. The big issue is getting the new equipment and camera system delivered and set up in 83 offices and private companies, called tag agents, he said.

“We expect for all offices to have the new system in place by the end of May 2014,” he said.

The current driver’s license or identification card will remain valid during the transition. New drivers and those renewing their licenses will receive the card with the new design, Campbell said. It could take at least four years to phase out the old design.

“Enhancing the security features of a Louisiana driver license and identification card reduces the possibility of criminals being able to counterfeit these documents that have become the national standard for identification,” Col. Mike Edmonson, Department of Public Safety Deputy secretary and head of the Louisiana State Police, said in a prepared statement.

In January 2016, security personnel at airports, federal courts and other facilities will bar access to people using Louisiana driver’s licenses as identification, Campbell said. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, however, has moved that deadline back several times.

The Real ID Act of 2005, enacted as part of the 9/11 Commission recommendations, set standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and other official identification documents that would make it easier for law enforcement to verify the identity of the holder. The act requires identification cards to include specific security features and document support. It also stipulates protocols for issuing the identification.

Louisiana passed a law in 2008 forbidding the state from, essentially, including a symbol that shows the state’s official identification complies with the Real ID Act.

Over the years, critics raised several arguments in testimony before legislative committees against making Louisiana drivers’ licenses compliant with Real ID. The recurring concern cited by critics is that the federal government could track private individuals.