Alaskans' driver's licenses are getting a new look

Suzanna Caldwell
Alaska Department of Motor Vehicles

Alaska drivers' licenses are getting a new look starting next month.

The Alaska Department of Motor Vehicles unveiled the new design and a new system for getting identification cards Wednesday. They will begin issuing the new cards in June using a phased approach and will not require customers to immediately renew their licenses.

The cards, which include an updated design of Mount McKinley, will be issued using a central system, according to DMV Director Amy Erickson. That system will provide better safeguards to prevent identify theft, but will also mean a bit of a lag when it comes to getting new cards.

Alaskans will still have to go to their local DMV to get an ID, but instead will be issued a temporary one until the secure card is mailed to them, a process that can take 2 to 4 weeks. The temporary IDs will be good for 60 days.

Erickson said Alaska IDs are some of the most counterfeited in the country because of their "unsophisticated design." The new safety features should help safeguard against counterfeiting by including microtext that is difficult to read, laminate with a snowflake and seal of Alaska pattern and a "ghost" photo of a person that would be "hard to replicate," she said. The photo will also be run through a central database to make sure there are no duplicates.

Alaska isn't the first state to have an central issuance system for ID cards. Erickson said 26 other states have the same system. Very little will change in the process to get the license, short of having the ID card mailed, she said.

"That's going to be difficult for some people to swallow," she said.

Dale Fox, president and CEO of Alaska CHARR, the Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailer's Association, had concerns as well. Despite efforts from the group to give input on the design, they were rebuffed by the DMV. That left Fox disappointed. He worries that the new IDs could be harder for alcohol servers or busy bar bouncers to read. He had only seen a new version of the ID card for the first time Wednesday afternoon.

"Did they take things off the license that helped people?" he said. Or did they make it worse?"

Erickson said the DMV reached out to CHARR to notify them of the impending change, but consulted with law enforcement and other DMV professionals on the design.

"We're following the industry standard," Erickson said.

Suzanna Caldwell can be reached at