The REAL ID Act: Are You Ready for a National ID?
People throughout the country might see some big changes happening to their driver’s licenses and state IDs. As of February 2013, 19 states have demonstrated compliance with the REAL ID Act, a piece of legislature that imposes much stricter measures on how people can obtain a driver’s license, and sets more thorough standards as to what will be displayed on them. Called the new “national ID,” the REAL ID Act has gained some traction in light of recent events like the Boston Marathon bombings.
But what exactly is the REAL ID Act, and how will it affect drivers across the nation?
The History of REAL IDAfter 9/11, the federal government began to look at ways to increase security surrounding state identification cards and driver’s licenses, in an attempt to prevent further terrorism and/or unlawful entry into and out of the country.
In 2005, the House of Representatives passed a bill into law called the REAL ID Act. This Act would set certain federal standards upon all driver’s licenses, which are currently regulated by each individual state. After being passed into law, the bill was tabled until 2007, when it was announced that the federal enforcement of the act would be postponed for a period of two years. However, many state governments were slow to support this act, feeling that it not only infringed upon states’ rights handed to them by the 10th Amendment, but also created unnecessary cost to taxpayers in order to implement the change. It wasn’t until this year that the federal government announced that all states would need to be in compliance with the REAL ID Act by the end of 2017.
- Full legal name
- Residential address
- Birth date
- Driver’s license/identification card number
- Digital front-facing photograph
- A photo ID, or non-photo ID that contains the applicant’s full legal name and birth date
- Valid birth certificate
- Social Security number
- Proof of legal U.S. citizenship, OR proof of lawful admittance into or temporary residence within the U.S.
The Pros and Cons of REAL IDProponents of the REAL ID Act cite its advantages to national security. These measures ensure that non-citizens are unable to obtain a state-issued ID or driver’s license, and also prevent anyone without one from boarding aircraft or entering high-security locations. Similarly, these IDs would place the United States in the company of nearly 100 other countries in the world (including most European countries) that have some form of a national ID card.
Cost, Freedom, and Privacy ConcernsHowever, many states oppose the implementation of the REAL ID Act based upon the estimated cost. The Act is a unfunded mandate, meaning that while the requirement is federally issued, the entire cost of recreating and re-issuing millions of licenses and ID cards would fall solely upon the states – without any financial assistance from the federal government. States are therefore required to raise their licensing fees in order to make up the added cost… putting an extra financial burden upon the licensee, who may simply be attempting to transfer one valid license into the REAL ID format.
Once the Act is fully implemented, residents without the new mandated ID will also be barred from boarding airplanes, entering nuclear facilities, and performing any other actions that require “official” federal identification. Citizens will need to provide a valid U.S. passport or permanent residency card in place of the new ID.
Another major concern is the idea of personal information being gathered and stored into what some are calling a “national database.” In order for the DHS and TSA to validate a citizen’s identity, they need to collect and store the information that otherwise would be solely kept by individual states. Many are worried about the “Big Brother”-esque implications this may have to personal privacy.