Ohioans looking to head north — or south — for vacation might soon be able to bypass the passport.

A bill approved 10-1 by the Ohio House Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee aims to make it easier for Ohio residents to travel between the U.S. and Canada or Mexico by creating an enhanced driver’s license that could be used in place of a passport when traveling either by land or sea — but not by air.

The IDs would use radio-frequency identification technology, which allows a device to read information contained in the card without making physical contact. The bill says the new driver’s licenses would contain “technology and security features approved by the secretary of homeland security.”

However, some worry the system could be abused.

This kind of access, bill sponsor Rex Damschroder, R-Fremont, said, could bring up concerns with some people “afraid of government overreach.”

ND Driver's Licenses to Have New Look, Enhanced Security

The North Dakota Department of Transportation will begin issuing a driver’s license with a new look and enhanced security features this week. The license will have a new color in the background with updated fraud security features to protect against identity theft. These added features include machine-readable technology, improved printing, image overlap and enhanced laminate. The features greatly reduce the possibility of a third party counterfeiting the license.

The licenses will begin being issued in Bismarck as part of the regular renewal process. Other driver’s license sites throughout the state will begin issuing the new licenses later this spring and summer. Residents will not need to renew current licenses until the expiration date on your current driver’s license. The change is effective for all types of driver’s licenses including, minor driver’s license, permits, identification cards, etc. No additional renewal costs will be applied.

Driver’s license information along with site locations can be found by going to the Indiana DOT website (PDF).

--The Jamestown Sun, North Dakota

Damschroder said issuing advanced IDs is an important step for Ohio, saving residents money and making it more convenient to travel. However, individuals with concerns wouldn’t have to get a new ID because it’s not a mandatory program.

Passage of the bill would add Ohio to the list of states where enhanced IDs are available, including New York, Michigan, Vermont, Washington and Minnesota.

“With the success in other states, I think this is something that will be a success in Ohio,” Damschroder said.

Purchasers also would have to pay $25 more for the license, bringing the individual cost to about $50.

Gary Daniels, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said the organization has two major concerns about the change: that the technology is not secure, and that the system could be abused by the government or third parties.

“There’s also the very real problem that this technology can be used to survey the whereabouts of ordinary Americans,” Daniels said. “We already know that our federal government surveys us in a number of ways. ... Why would we think another opportunity would come along and say, ‘No, not this time, we have enough information now.’?”

Last year, privacy concerns derailed the state’s efforts to move forward with a federal “one driver, one license” policy that often used facial recognition to ensure that applicants had not previously been issued an ID under another name.

Joe Andrews, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, said that while the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles remains neutral on the bill, changes are made to driver’s licenses all the time.

“I think it’s something most states are moving toward,” he said.

Andrews said it is too soon to know how much the change would cost to implement and what changes would have to be made.

©2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)