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Woman with 35-letter name wins driver’s license battle

AFP-JIJI, AP

A Hawaiian woman with a 35-letter surname has persuaded state authorities to change their official ID card format because her king-size name will not fit.

Janice Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele, whose traditional Hawaiian name comes from her late husband, said she would never consider using a shortened version, and so used local media to press officials to take action. “I love the Polynesian culture I married into, I love my Hawaiian name. It is an honor and has been quite a journey to carry the names I carry,” said Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele, whose maiden name was Worth.

The name has layers of meanings. One, she said, is “When there is chaos and confusion, you are one that will stand up and get people to focus in one direction and come out of the chaos.” It also references the origins of her and her husband’s family. Her husband used only the one name, which his grandfather gave him. The name came to his grandfather in a dream that also told him he would have a grandson.

For years she has carried two forms of identification: her driver’s license, which only has room for 34 characters, and her state ID card, which in the past had room for all 35 letters.

But the problem came after her state ID was renewed in May — and came back the same as her driver’s license, with the last letter missing, and with no first name.

Then a traffic cop pulled her over. “The policeman looked at my license and saw I had no first name. I told him it is not my fault that my license and state ID are not correct and I am trying to get it corrected.

“He then told me, ‘Well, you can always change your name back to your maiden name.’ This hurt my heart,” said Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele, who was originally from New York and worked on Wall Street until 1991.

“Over the last 22 years, I have seen Hawaii is being bulldozed and the culture of Hawaii being trampled upon, and this policeman treated my name as if it is some mumbo-jumbo,” added Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele, whose friends call her “Lokelani.”

She took her case to a local TV station, which publicized the problem. Within days, authorities, who had told her it would take two years to change and the character limit would remain at 35, had decided they could make room for 40-character names by the end of the year.