Maine: repeal Real ID Act

In a state whose citizens are known for their individualism, a groundswell of resistance to the Real ID Act has reached fever pitch.

Maine's House of Representatives and Senate voted nearly unanimously last week to approve a joint resolution urging President Bush and the Congress to repeal the Real ID Act of 2005.

During floor debate in both legislative chambers, lawmakers observed that the Real ID Act could cost state taxpayers upwards of $185 million to put in place.

'The federal government may be willing to burden us with the high costs of a program that will do nothing to make us safer, but it is our job as state legislators to protect the people of Maine from just this sort of dangerous federal mandate,' said Maine Senate Majority Leader Libby Mitchell.

Regarded by many states as an unfunded mandate from the federal government, the Real ID Act requires states by 2008 to overhaul and upgrade their driver's licenses and issuance processes, as well build a linked national network to house information validating the identity of hundreds of millions of driver's license holders.

A report released in September 2006 produced by several state government leadership organizations put the cost of implementing the Real ID act at $11 billion. More than 245 million people hold U.S. driver's licenses.

The intent of the law is to tighten procedures for driver's license issuance and eliminate duplicate licenses in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But the legislation has become a focal point for privacy advocates, who charge that a national database of state ID cards and driver's licenses would be a rich target for identity thieves and that computer-readable cards allow anyone with a reader to collect personal information from card holders.

William Welsh is the deputy editor of Government Computer News' affiliate publication, Washington Technology.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.


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