DC licenses to change to clear up name confusion

WASHINGTON — Have you ever met someone who is confused when they hear “District of Columbia,” instead of “Washington, D. C.?”

Dozens of D.C. residents have run into that problem since 2013, when the city began issuing driver’s licenses that bear the District’s formal name.

But that’s about to change, according to District officials.

Instead of the current driver’s license, which lists “District of Columbia” at the top, the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles will soon issue licenses that say “Washington, D.C.”

Lucinda Babers, director of the DMV, said the change “better represents the city and will reduce confusion.”

The decision comes after residents reported ID-related issues at concession stands, liquor stores and airports.

“It is our capital, so there really shouldn’t be any confusion,” said Ashley Brandt, who was hassled a few years back at an airport while trying to board a flight using her D.C. driver’s license.

Brandt was flying back from Phoenix in 2014 when a Transportation Security Administration agent checked her identification, became confused and said she did not think the TSA could accept it.

“She asked if I had my passport instead,” Brandt said. “I did have a moment of panic that I wasn’t going to be able to get on my flight.”

Brandt said the issue was cleared up when the agent spoke to a supervisor.

“I was able to move forward and board my flight, but it was an interesting experience that I never expected to happen.”

The situation is not unfamiliar to many D.C. residents who have been required to show an ID for one reason or another.

So, will changing the name on the license clear up the confusion?

“Maybe that could make a difference,” said Brandt. “Honestly, if someone doesn’t know that Washington, D.C. and the District of Columbia is the same place, or that it’s part of the United States, I think that’s a bigger issue than what the actual license says.”

The name change will take effect in June for residents renewing their license or applying for a new one. Existing licenses will be valid until they expire.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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