SIKESTON - Local motorists still appear to be confused by a new state law that went into effect July 1.
According to the law, U.S. citizens must present a U.S. birth certificate, a valid U.S. passport, a Certificate of Citizenship, a Certificate of Naturalization or a Certificate of Birth Abroad when they arrive at the license bureau to obtain or renew their license. Anyone whose name is different from the one on their birth certificate - through marriage or other means - must also present documentation indicating how their name was changed.
"Obviously a lot of people are still pretty confused," said Barry Cook, administrator for the Scott County Health Department, referring to a high volume of recent SpeakOut calls.
Although other forms of identification may be used, birth certificates are what most are using. "Ninety-nine percent of them have a birth certificate," estimated Terry Cole, fee agent at the Sikeston License Bureau.
For those born in Missouri, birth certificates can be obtained through any county health department in Missouri, Cook said. "If they're in the computer and not a problem - most aren't - it only takes a few minutes," he said. "We print it on the spot and usually within five to 10 minutes they have (the birth certificate)."
In some circumstances, it may take longer to receive a birth certificate. For instance, a person's name may be spelled differently on the birth certificate, or their birth may not have been recorded because they were born at home, Cook said.
These are the people who have the biggest problems at the license bureau, too. "They say they've fallen through the cracks," said Heather King, a clerk at the Sikeston License Bureau.
Those in this category are put in touch with the Missouri Department of Health Vital Records, where they submit papers and proof of their residency and existence, such as school records, Cook said.
And they, in addition to anyone else having trouble obtaining their birth certificate, are given a 60-day extension to renew their license, Cole added. "We will do whatever we can to help."
Cook said the health department has received a lot of calls from confused motorists and several have been pointed in their direction from the license bureaus. To help clear some confusion, forms they must fill out to receive birth certificates were placed in both Scott County license bureaus - Sikeston and Chaffee - Cook said.
For those born in other states, there are a few different routes they can take to receive certified birth certificates, like contacting that state's department of health or vital records or through a private company, Vital Chek. Cole and Cook both recommended the Centers for Disease Control Web site.
"That would be the first source I would try if I wasn't born in Missouri," Cole said.
The license bureau has actually found some mistakes as a by-product of the new requirements, originally planned to decrease identity theft and fraud as well as preventing illegal immigrants from getting driver's licenses, boarding planes and entering protected federal buildings. "We're finding some where the date of birth is wrong," Cole said. For instance, a license may have a birthday of June 18, but the birth certificate states it as June 20.
And the problem is beginning to get smaller. When the law first went into effect, close to 50 percent of motorists were unaware of the new requirements, but now only about 20 percent come without the necessary paperwork, Cole said. "It's just about getting everyone educated."