Real rejection of Real ID

So last week I was out of the office all but one day. In the days of e-mail, many of you can probably relate to the catch-up that has to occur. It usually takes a few days to get out from under the pile.

And this morning I came across this nugget: Last week Maine became the first state to reject the Real ID Act.

“Maine has spoken: Real ID is a real nightmare for local governments” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Real ID is an unfunded mandate that could lead to rampant identity theft. We urge other states to follow Maine’s call for privacy. Maine’s action makes it crystal clear that Congress must fix what’s broken and significantly revise the Real ID Act.”

Maine’s action was only a resolution calling for Congress to repeal the act, but a follow-up bill is expected that will block any state spending on the program. From the Portland Press Herald editorial board

Members of the National Conference of State Legislatures voted at a meeting in August to oppose the legislation, which is expected to cost Maine taxpayers $185 million over its first five years.

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap has pointed out that this is six times the total annual budget of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Nationwide, the cost is estimated to be $11 billion, almost all of it to be paid by the states.

Under the law, Maine would have to obey national standards for issuing driver’s licenses, which would be imprinted with a special machine-readable “zone” on the cards containing personal data on the holder. Illegal immigrants would be barred from receiving them.

Privacy advocates, including the Maine Civil Liberties Union and the libertarian Cato Institute, say such data could be a bonanza for identity thieves if the cards were lost or stolen. Even worse, the data could potentially be read at a distance by ID thieves using their own machines to lift the information without ever getting their hands on the cards.

That’s why Maine’s House voted 137-4 to oppose the Real ID Act, while the Senate was unanimous, 34-0.

While the state so far has only called on Congress to overturn the law, it has another arrow in its quiver. Lawmakers plan to offer a bill directing Dunlap not to spend any money to create the new licenses.

While that could put Maine on a collision course with the feds, other states have joined the effort to lobby for repeal. They deserve to win this fight.

And so the first domino has fallen. More from our D.C. office:

“As Maine goes, so goes the nation,” said Charlie Mitchell, Director of the ACLU State Legislative Department. “Already bills have been filed in Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Georgia and Washington, which would follow Maine’s lead in saying no to Real ID, with many mores states on the verge of similar action. Across the nation, local lawmakers are rejecting the federal government’s demand that they curtail their constituents’ privacy through this giant unfunded boondoggle.”

As for Pennsylvania, well, let’s just say, “We’re workin’ on it.” Learn more at

Andy in the HBG

1 thought on “Real rejection of Real ID

  1. True that. Gov. Rendell has been publicly critical of the Real ID act, we need to do everything possible to see that PA does something similar to Maine’s recent action. Real ID is a debacle that was hardly debated as it was snuck into a bill that was guaranteed to pass. Read ID has got to go!

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