Seven Years Later, Real ID Still Real Stuck

Just before the holidays, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a press release commending the states that have met the requirements of the Real ID Act of 2005 for driver’s licenses and identification cards.

In the wake of 9/11, you will recall, policymakers moved for stronger national standards to verify the identity of driver’s license applicants. This led to the Real ID Act which established requirements for a national identification system based on the driver’s license.

The act requires the states to comply with 18 specific benchmarks related to the issuance of personal identification cards. Since the law was enacted more than seven years ago, one would think that most would have signed on by now. But to date, only 13 states have done so: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

The remaining states have not provided DHS enough information to determine whether or not they are in compliance with the act’s requirements, according to the release. If those states fail to comply by January 15 of this year, they will get a temporary deferment. DHS will then follow up with the laggards to “develop a schedule for the phased enforcement of the Act’s statutory prohibitions to ensure that residents of all states are treated in a fair manner.”

But this may be easier said than done. Many of the uncooperative states have rejected Real ID through statute or legislative resolution, or have simply refused to comply. They cite a host of reasons including expense of implementation, the potential to bog down already stressed motor vehicle departments, as well as privacy concerns.

Groups from across the political spectrum have voiced opposition as well. The National Governors Association, ACLU, EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) and many more have all come out against the measure. The ACLU’s dedicated Real ID website sums up the concerns here.

The NMA has opposed Real ID from the beginning. Our position is simple: The basic (and only legitimate) purpose of the driver’s license is to certify that the license holder is capable of operating a motor vehicle on public roads in a safe and responsible manner. The license should not be withheld for any reason other than the fact that the applicant could not pass a fair and objective driving test.

The driver’s license should not be demanded as a formal means of personal identification. The full implementation of Real ID would have real consequences for motorists:

•More government intrusion and control

•Increased threats to personal privacy

•Greater vulnerability to identify theft/fraud

•More difficulty in obtaining a driver’s license

Thankfully, the opposition has successfully stalled Real ID numerous times over the years, and DHS has reportedly extended the implementation deadline to 2017—12 years after enactment.

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