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KS: State to revamp driver’s ID security, but old design still secure

By   /   October 18, 2012  /   No Comments

NEW LOOK: The new driver’s license design will cost more to produce. The state will pay $4.31 per card, up from $2.70.

By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog

OSAWATOMIE — Kansas has a solution in search of a problem.

The state officials and law enforcement officers readily admit fake IDs aren’t a problem, but Kansas will redesign the driver’s license with additional security features aimed at making it harder to forge them.

And the new licenses will cost more too.

“The old licenses actually held up very well. They had not been successfully counterfeited,” said Jeannine Koranda, public information officer for the Kansas Department of Revenue. “This is kind of a constant challenge that states are facing.”

State officials Tuesday unveiled the new design, which will include ultraviolet images, multicolored holograms and raised-letter numbers.

But for the most part, the current design has thwarted such illegal efforts since being introduced in 2004, Koranda said.

OLD LOOK: The last redesign of Kansas driver’s licenses occurred in 2004. State officials, as well as law enforcement officers, say it has yet to be cracked by counterfeiters.

She added that Dean Reynoldson, director of the Division of Alcohol Beverage Control, has not seen a single high quality counterfeit of the 2004 series card and was not aware of any successful attempts to use a counterfeit ID, such as opening a bank account.

Law enforcement officers statewide back up the current license’s security record.

“It’s so much harder to create a false ID. Unless you have the machines that can fabricate a license, it’s not as prevalent as you might think,” said Lt. Doug Nolte, of the Wichita Police Department.

Overland Park Officer Gary Mason agreed.

“We don’t see a whole lot of them (fake IDs), especially really good quality ones,” Mason said.

When pressed as to why additional security procedures were necessary, Koranda said it’s just something states do every few years, and said it was initiated by the administration under former Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson.

“They (officials) look at the security features, and what they do is just put in new security features,” Koranda said.

Joan Wagnon, who served as secretary of revenue under Parkinson, could not be reached for comment.

The Department of Revenue does not keep statistics on fraudulent driver’s licenses or ID cards. Koranda said cases of fake IDs are usually investigated and prosecuted at a local level, and are not tracked by the state government.

The state will continue to contract with ID manufacturer MorphoTrust USA in redesigning the driver’s licenses but at a higher cost. Koranda said the added security features, combined with the increase in price of raw materials, will raise the state’s cost per card from $2.70 to $4.31. According to the state’s contract, MorphoTrust USA will be paid based on the number of licenses and IDs the state requests.

The state Division of Vehicles will not pass that increased cost along to drivers at this time. Koranda said the agency can absorb the expense because it was built into license fee structure set in 2004, specifically the $8 photo fee. In 2011, the state collected $6.02 million in photo fees.

“It is honestly just a cost of doing business,” Koranda said.

Despite the lack of urgency regarding fake licenses, Koranda said the state plans to redesign the ID cards every few years to keep ahead of criminals.

“There are states that have far weaker anti-counterfeiting measures, and those states do become a target for people that want to have a fake ID, and our goal is to make sure Kansas does not become a state like that,” she noted. “You don’t want to try and start solving the problem after the cat’s already out of the bag.”

The current driver’s licenses will be issued until 2018. Any redesign will be in use for about 14 years, said Koranda.

Contact Travis Perry at travis@kansaswatchdog.org, or follow him on twitter at @kansaswatchdog.

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Travis Perry is an investigative reporter covering news and politics for Watchdog.org's Kansas bureau. Before joining the organization, Travis graduated cum laude from Washburn University and cut his teeth as news editor for the Osawatomie Graphic, where he received numerous awards from the Kansas Press Association.