Maine Governor Sends REAL ID Letter to DHS

Letter outlines improved security of Maine drivers' licenses.

by / March 25, 2008 0

Governor John E. Baldacci today sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security asking that Maine residents not be penalized under the federal REAL ID Act.

Homeland Security has set a March 31 deadline for states to request a waiver that would give them more time to move toward compliance with the REAL ID Act of 2005.

Maine law prohibits the state from complying with the act. In his letter to DHS, Governor Baldacci asked that Maine's residents not be penalized by the rules set to take effect on May 11.

"On May 11, the Department of Homeland Security could impose new travel restrictions on residents of states that have not received a waiver, but no state will be in compliance on that date. Maine's driver's license will be the same whether we receive the waiver or not. The same is true for every other state that has requested and received a waiver," Governor Baldacci said. "We have been working diligently to improve our driver's license, and we will continue those efforts regardless of REAL ID."

DHS has threatened to impose new travel restrictions on residents of states that do not seek the waiver and to deny them access to federal buildings.

In 2007, Maine passed a law that prohibits compliance with REAL ID.

"REAL ID will impose a massive financial burden on Maine at a time when our resources are extremely limited by a slowing national economy," Governor Baldacci said. "In addition, I share the concerns of other Maine lawmakers that REAL ID could put in jeopardy the personal information of every Maine resident. The federal law raises real privacy issues."

In his letter, Governor Baldacci outlined the numerous steps that have been taken to improve State issued credentials. Of 18 individual benchmarks for REAL ID, Maine meets or partially meets 10.

Maine has moved to central distribution of credentials, digital photograph retention, machine readable technology, and tamper-proof security features. Maine has also revised its statutes to mandate collection of a Social Security Number (SSN) or absent a SSN, written proof of ineligibility.

Maine does not accept for identification affirmation any document issued by a foreign government that has passed its expiration date; and pending legislation awaiting final action would establish a requirement that only Maine residents may obtain Maine credentials, and that those applicants would need to present documentary evidence of their physical Maine address in order to obtain a Maine credential.

The Legislature has requested that the Secretary of State work with the federal government to develop an authoritative list of documents acceptable to determine lawful presence, in anticipation of further legislative action on this policy area next year. Also, we are examining the Enhanced Driver's License (EDL) under Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

"Maine has made tremendous progress in improving our driver's license, and our State has made it clear that we do not support REAL ID," Governor Baldacci said. "But I also felt it was necessary to send this letter to the Department of Homeland Security. I do not want to see Maine people used as a political pawn in a dispute between federal and state authorities. Come May 11, Mainers should be able to travel without extra security or unnecessary delays. To target them would be unfair."

Governor Baldacci also said today that there is an alternative to REAL ID.

"Maine Rep. Tom Allen has submitted bipartisan legislation that would repeal REAL ID and replace it with a process that will improve national security without placing an enormous financial burden on states or compromising civil liberties," Governor Baldacci said. "There is an alternative to the path we're on. I hope Congress and the President will take it."

Rep. Allen's bill, H.R. 1117, re-establishes a negotiated rulemaking process involving all stakeholders to

develop standards for state driver's licenses. Maine was engaged in this process, which was working before its repeal by the REAL ID Act.


Letter follows:


March 25, 2008

The Honorable Michael Chertoff
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Secretary Chertoff:

As you know, the State of Maine has been at the forefront in the national discussion of identity security. Maine has consulted with your department extensively as you have worked to develop practical methods to implement a host of federal statutes, including the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), under the auspices of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, and the Real ID Act of 2005. While the development of the rules, policies and procedures have taken longer than had originally been anticipated, the State of Maine has moved vigorously in the meantime to improve the security of its credentials.

The Maine Secretary of State has jurisdiction over the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. In our analysis of Maine's policies and procedures for issuing driver's licenses and non-driver identification cards, we have found that our procedures completely meet or partially meet a large portion of the requirements noted in the Final Rule implementing the Act. Specifically, in Appendix A of the Final Rule vetted before publication in the Federal Register, 18 individual benchmarks were listed for certification of compliance. Maine meets or partially meets items 1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, and 15.

Since 2002, Maine has moved to central distribution of credentials, digital photograph retention, machine readable technology, and tamper-proof security features. Maine has also revised its statutes to mandate collection of a Social Security Number (SSN) or absent a SSN, written proof of ineligibility; Maine does not accept for identification affirmation any document issued by a foreign government that has passed its expiration date; and pending legislation awaiting final action would establish a requirement that only Maine residents may obtain Maine credentials, and that those applicants would need to present documentary evidence of their physical Maine address in order to obtain a Maine credential. The Legislature has also requested that the Secretary of State work with our federal partners to develop an authoritative list of documents acceptable to determine lawful presence, in anticipation of further legislative action on this policy area next year. Also, we are examining your department's proposals to implement the Enhanced Driver's License (EDL) under WHTI.

While Maine citizens and their elected representatives in the Legislature have accepted and endorsed these enhancements, the Maine Legislature enacted and I signed into law LD 1138, An Act to Prohibit Maine from Participating in the Federal Real ID Act of 2005. This legislation received wide bipartisan support. Title 29-A MRSA section 1411 says explicitly "(t)he State may not participate in the federal Real ID Act of 2005 ... (t)he Secretary of State may not amend procedures for applying for a driver's license or nondriver identification card under this chapter in a manner designed to conform to the federal Real ID Act of 2005." While REAL ID is voluntary, section 1411 of Title 29-A MRSA is not.

Maine was a participant in the Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee on Minimum Standards for State-Issued Driver Licenses and Identification Cards that was an original section of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, and that was subsequently repealed as a provision of the Real ID Act. We were very encouraged by the progress that was made on these issues in the brief time that committee met, and hope to revisit that mechanism in the future as a way to ease the procedural and jurisdictional difficulties that currently face Real ID. Additionally, we would encourage more such dialogue around the creation, issuance and usage of vital and probate records as source documents as well as clearer communication on best practices in the protocols surrounding the usage of federal travel documents.

We remain committed to improving the security of our credentials.

Given the progress that Maine has made in improving the security of our driver's license, it is my hope that the State's credentials continue to be acceptable for federal purposes, including commercial air travel and entry into federal buildings, and Mainers not be penalized.

Sincerely yours,
John E. Baldacci
Governor