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Minnesota revises driver's licenses to be more secure

Dawn Olson of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety looks at a new driver's license design that will be available beginning next month. Several types of licenses will be available, including a vertical one for drivers younger than 21. Don Davis / Forum News Service1 / 3
Current Minnesota driver's licenses are simpler and easier to copy than ones to be made available beginning Aug. 8, 2018. Minnesota Department of Public Safety photo2 / 3
New Minnesota driver's licenses will include more information and have features to make them more difficult to copy. Minnesota Department of Public Safety photo3 / 3

ST. PAUL—New Minnesota driver's licenses will be more difficult to forge, be easier for law enforcement officers to read and contain more information.

Some of the new licenses, and identification cards, will be available starting Aug. 6, but "people don't need to rush in and apply for a new card," Dawn Olson said on Monday, July 16. Olson, the state Department of Public Safety Driver and Vehicle Services director, said Minnesotans with a current valid licenses or IDs can continue using them.

However, people wanting the latest cards can get them before their current ones expire if they pay early-issue fees of $2 to $6.

New versions of regular driver's licenses and IDs will be issued beginning next month, but enhanced licenses and those that comply with the federal Real ID law will not be available until October. Enhanced licenses allow holders to re-enter the United States from other North American countries, but are not the same as Real ID cards.

Several features on the new cards make it more secure, public safety officials said. One of the biggest changes is that drivers younger than 21 will be given a vertical license, making it easier to spot under-age drinkers. Other licenses are horizontal.

Sgt. Dawanna Witt of the Dakota County Sheriff's Department said the new design will be easier for law enforcement officials, and bar employees, to read in dark conditions.

The cards incorporate a new logo most state agencies use, featuring lower-case M and N in blue and green. They also allow more information to be displayed, such as whether the holder is an organ donor, senior citizen or veteran.

With a background featuring pine trees and a canoeist on the Mississippi River, the cards also have a black and white "shadow" photo of the holder and a duplicate of the person's date of birth.

An image of a walleye fish will be visible when holding the card up to a light source.

Dino Redmond of Idemia, the company that makes the cards, said lasers are used to make some features. "It's very difficult to duplicate."

Besides the driver's license number, a second unique number will be printed to identify the holder and the type of license or permit will be clearly marked.

Olson said roll-out of the new license is coming next month because the state's license maker is running out of stock to make current licenses. The timing is not connected to the beginning of issuance of Real ID licenses in October.

Real ID licenses can be used by people boarding airliners and entering some federal facilities. Minnesota's lawmakers held out allowing the state to issue Real ID licenses until last year. Without legislative approval, Minnesotans would have been required to hunt for other documents to get access to flights.

The Real ID license, to be marked with a federally required gold star in the upper right, will be issued beginning in October, but state officials say existing licenses will be accepted at airports and federal facilities for two more years. Cards that do not comply with Real ID standards will be marked "Not for federal identification," Olson said.

Minnesotans are not required to get Real ID cards, although it is the only type of license available in some states.


More information about Minnesota driver's licenses is at

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.