“Our hope was that Congress was listening. Congressman Allen’s bill is a sign that says he is,” said Maine Speaker of the House of Representatives Hannah Pingree at the Capitol press conference where speakers rejected RealID. Photo by Ramona du Houx April/May by Ramona du Houx Representative Tom Allen’s bill, H.R. 1117 — The Repeal Real ID and Identification […]
“Our hope was that Congress was listening. Congressman Allen’s bill is a sign that says he is,” said Maine Speaker of the House of Representatives Hannah Pingree at the Capitol press conference where speakers rejected RealID.
Photo by Ramona du Houx
by Ramona du Houx
Representative Tom Allen’s bill, H.R. 1117 — The Repeal Real ID and Identification Security Enhancement Act — would repeal the current law’s driver’s license requirements and establish a negotiated rule-making process to involve all stakeholders in establishing federal standards for driver’s licenses and personal identification cards.
“It is not enough merely to delay implementation of this deeply flawed law,” said Rep. Allen, referring to the measure by Maine’s U.S. Senator Collins. “Congress must replace it with legislation that does not infringe on the privacy rights of Americans, that does not put their personal information at risk to possible fraudulent use, and that does not impose the burden of an unfunded financial mandate on state taxpayers.”
Real ID was rammed through Congress without proper hearings in 2005, when it was attached deliberately to an emergency relief funds bill for Hurricane Katrina.
Civil rights groups say that it would effectively transform driver’s licenses into national identification cards, which will become the only acceptable form of identification for boarding airplanes, driving cars, and entering federal buildings. With Real ID an applicant for a driver’s license would have to provide a birth certificate and that would then have to be verified. Mandating birth certificate verification is not even required when you obtain a passport. Many people in Maine don’t have birth certificates.
“A passport or visa will be obtained much the same way as before the Sept. 11 attacks — so while we build a high wall, we seem to have forgotten to add a gate,” said Maine’s Secretary of State Matt Dunlop.
“What if the hospital where you were born no longer exists? Frankly, that happened to my wife,” said Congressman Allen. After discovering the hospital where Diana Allen was born had closed, it took months of investigation to confirm that her birth certificate was valid. “People can’t wait that long for a driver’s licensee or ID. We are not equipped to try and verify the documents people will have to bring in. Real ID will not work as it is written. It needs to be repealed and replaced.”
“There were a lot of threats, but in a bipartisan way, we have become the first Legislature in the nation to say Real ID is wrong,” said Maine Senate President Libby Mitchell.
Photo by Ramona du Houx
Maine was the first state to reject the law by passing a resolution on January 25, 2007. In a display of bipartisan unity, the Maine House and Senate voted 171-4 to adopt a resolution urging Congress to reject Real ID. State Legislatures in New Mexico, Utah, and Montana have followed suit by passing their own resolutions. Seven other states are also considering such legislation.
“In my twenty years of service I don’t ever remember the Legislature standing up to the federal government and saying, look, this is wrong, Maine refuses to cooperate. It was a little frightening, because we were told that if Maine was the only one out there, we wouldn’t be able to board an airplane or go into federal buildings,” said State Sen. Libby Mitchell. “There were a lot of threats, but in a bipartisan way, we have become the first Legislature in the nation to say Real ID is wrong. It cannot be fixed, and it needs to be repealed.”
“Since Maine passed our first-in-the Nation resolution by a huge bipartisan majority, I have receive over a hundred e-mails form people around the country, thanking Maine for standing up,” said Maine’s House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree. “Our hope was that Congress was listening. Congressman Allen’s bill is a sign that says Washington is listening.”
“I have concerns that it places Americans’ privacy and security at risk. Each state must create an electronic database of all information of every driver’s license and have that linked to every other state’s database,” said the congressman.
Essentially, any worker at a motor vehicles office in any state could have access to Mainers’ private information in a day and age where electronic fraud is on the rise.
“A break-in by a determined hacker or identity thief could compromise personal information of millions of Americans. I do not trust the security of Mainers’ personal information to a system that is available to every DMV in the country,” said Allen.
“The Maine Legislature was concerned not only about the broken policy of the Real ID Act, but also by the creation of vast national databases completely under the control of the federal government,” said Dunlop.
“We asked the congressional delegation to reconsider the legislation. Tom Allen answered our call. His legislation does not simply delay its implementation, it repeals the most erroneous measures, while protecting Americans,” said Speaker of the House Glen Cummings. “As the legislation stands, it poses an identity threat to personal, private information through the cracks of a national database.”
Representative Allen noted that Real ID requires states to pick up the costs for new materials and equipment needed for cards that will meet the law’s standards and for additional personnel, training, equipment, and office hours needed to replace every driver’s license in the country.
“Its cost is estimated by my office at $185 million over the first five years of implementation,” said Dunlop.
“The ball is now back in Congress’s court,” said Rep. Allen. I look forward to working with the leadership in Washington to ensure that Congress doesn’t drop the ball.”