Maine Legislature Urges Repeal of Real ID Act

Privacy risks and high costs cited as reasons for repeal.

by / January 26, 2007
The Maine Senate and House yesterday voted nearly unanimously to approve a joint resolution urging Congress and the President to Repeal the Real ID Act of 2005, making Maine the first state in the country to do so. Real ID requires states to turn their driver's licenses into national ID cards that will be part of a 50-state shared database.

During floor debate in both legislative chambers, lawmakers pointed out that the Real ID Act could cost Maine taxpayers approximately $185 million to implement. In the resolution the legislature reasons that the national database created in the Act "will invite theft of identity and invasion of privacy." It also cites the fact that the Real ID Act "mandates an unfunded national driver's license on the people of Maine and was passed as a rider on a military spending bill."

Following the resolution's passage, Senate Majority Libby Mitchell, the sponsor of the resolution said, "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." Senator Mitchell added, "I am proud that this state has led the way in taking a stand against Real ID."

Real ID has angered privacy advocates, who say linking driver's licenses and state ID cards to a national database will create easier opportunities for identity thieves to access personal information. "Having all our private information centralized in one location, not in 50 locations, will create a one-stop-shop for criminals and identity theft," said State Representative Scott Lansley. "Would you have one key to open your house, car, boat, trailer? Probably not, so why would you have one location for all your private records?"

Departments such as the Bureau of Motor Vehicles will be required to keep copies of birth certificates and other documents. As part of the Real ID Act, cards will be required to include a computer-readable zone, which privacy advocates say will allow anyone with a reader to collect the personal identifying information of anyone with a card.

"The Real ID initiative represents the worst of government - unwise, unfair and incredibly expensive," said State Representative John Brautigam. "In Maine, leaders from one end of the political spectrum to the other have expressed our opposition to this unfunded mandate."

Gina M. Scott Writer