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D.C. Council votes to issue digital driver’s licenses, IDs

The legislation gives the Department of Motor Vehicles authority to issue electronic versions of credentials

A sign marks the entrance to the Georgetown branch of the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles. (John Kelly/The Washington Pos)
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The D.C. Council on Tuesday approved a measure to give D.C. residents access to digital versions of their driver’s license or identification card on their phone.

The legislation, which passed unanimously, gives the Department of Motor Vehicles authority to issue digital credentials and lets residents present identification in an electronic format, such as on a smartphone, instead of a physical credential, except when prohibited by federal law.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), who proposed the bill, is expected to sign it into law.

D.C. is on track to issue electronic versions of driver’s licenses

Gabriel Robinson, director of the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, said the bill’s passage brings the city “a step closer to the reality of digital credentials.” He said the DMV will develop a plan to introduce digital credentials after the legislation is signed into law.

The motor vehicle agency has been developing a platform that would host the credentials, Robinson said. He declined to provide a timeline for when a digital license would be available.

Residents will continue to have the option of keeping a physical credential and will not be required to show their license or ID via a mobile device. City officials envision the digital option would be accepted to enter government buildings, for purchase of alcoholic beverages and to show if pulled over by police. Eventually, digital licenses would also be accepted at security checkpoints in airports across the country under a plan supported by the Transportation Security Administration.

The DMV is working with D.C. police to educate officers on what the digital license and ID will look like. A city report concluded that police will be able to accept digital licenses during a stop because officers already handle digital registrations and proof of insurance.

D.C. is joining about 20 states that have considered, tested or launched digital versions of driver’s licenses. Maryland and Virginia are also moving to create a digital option.