HOPKINTON (CBS) — If you’ve had problems with getting the new Real ID in Massachusetts, Ellen Winner of Hopkinton knows what you’re going through.

She’s getting close to retirement and she and her husband are hoping to book a trip to Hawaii. “I wouldn’t mind going to Pearl Harbor,” she said as the couple looked over vacation planning sites on a tablet.

Knowing that beginning next fall, she won’t be able to fly within the United States with her current driver’s license, she decided to go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles to apply for a Real ID. She left the registry with a license that day, but there was a problem.

“The problem is, he gave me a name of a person that doesn’t exist,” she told WBZ-TV.

Here’s what happened.

The RMV requires proof of lawful presence. There is a long list of documents that work for this purpose, many of which are related to immigration. For most people that means a passport or a birth certificate. Because Ellen’s passport was expired, her only option was her birth certificate which reads, Ellen Paula Stern. But like many women, when Ellen got married she took her maiden name as her middle name and became Ellen Stern Winner.

Ellen Winner (WBZ-TV)

When she approached the counter at the registry, the clerk refused to accept that name, and issued her a license that reads Ellen Paula Winner. Ellen said she told the clerk, “There’s no Ellen Paula Winner, I’m Ellen Stern Winner.” According to Ellen, the clerk replied, “Well, you are Ellen Paula Winner now.”

Tax documents she brought with her to the Registry say Ellen S. Winner, as does her Social Security card. “The Federal Government knows me as Ellen S. Winner. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts knows me as Ellen S. Winner, but he wants me to be Ellen Paula,” she said.

When we contacted the RMV, a spokesperson told us that a Social Security card is acceptable for proof of name, but when we called the RMV licensing division, the person on the phone was very clear that it wasn’t.

After a month of phone calls and emails to the RMV, Ellen’s state senator, and Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office, we heard back from the RMV.

A spokesperson wrote:

Please note the Registry was able to review this request and additional documentation provided by the customer and has determined that the middle initial appearing on the Social Security card is acceptable for use as part of the customer’s full legal name on a REAL ID credential. The customer’s credential request was processed today and the RMV will be providing information to team members on how to handle these types of exception cases in the future via new training materials and website clarifications.

“I think what the registry did was wrong. How dare they change my name willy nilly,” Ellen said.

A reminder that by October 1, 2020, everyone will need either a real ID or a passport to fly within the United States. For more information, visit the state’s website.

  1. Catherine Martin says:

    I just had this problem at a AAA registry desk. How can I go about getting my real ID corrected? If the RMV has website clarifications, where can I find them? How can I communicate this to the AAA office? Thank you.

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