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Licenses need more enhancing State's planned ID leap forward leads to a disturbingly quick pratfall

This is what happens when the left chip doesn't know what the right chip is doing.

As understandably proud as it was of its shiny new enhanced driver's licenses, the New York Department of Motor Vehicles didn't properly communicate its plans to the New York Lottery. Thus the scanners the Lottery provides to retailers all over the state to verify the age of those buying Lottery tickets don't read the bar codes that are on the backs not only of the new enhanced licenses -- those that will get you across the U.S.-Canada border -- but also of all New York driver's licences and ID cards issued since September.

With a world so dependent on computer technology for even the most mundane activities, it would be a good idea for the state of New York to have its information technology clearing house, headed by an official New York State IT guru, make sure that all the systems that are expected to work together actually do. If that's not part of the current Office of Technology mandate, it should be.

The newest computer snafu means that people with the new driver's licenses, at least those who aren't obviously well over the age of 18, can't buy Lottery tickets from law-abiding retailers. It also means, in many cases, that they can't buy alcohol or tobacco, either.

The Lottery machines are not official legal tender for smokes and booze sales. But, up until now, they served that purpose so well that store managers had come to rely on them to verify that those buying tobacco products are at least 18 and those buying alcohol are at least 21.

That's important, because if a convenience store clerk or liquor store owner is bamboozled by a fake ID, the store can be held officially liable for an illegal sale. Do that as few as two times within a three-year period, and a store can lose its license.

Buying a carton of cigarettes or a six-pack may not be one of the inalienable rights of humanity. But it is poor service indeed for the state to provide a useful computer system that serves the interests of both business and public safety and then, through simple negligence, takes it away again.

Lottery officials say it will be January, the next routine update of software, before their scanners will again read all New York driver's licenses. But, with as much money as New Yorkers pour into those tickets every week, it would seem they could pull a quicker turnaround than that.

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