A law passed in 2005 mandating that drivers’ licenses in all states meet specific security standards recommended by the 9/11 Commission is on pace to take full effect in 2016.
The licensing standard, called REAL ID, has been to varying degrees rejected by several state legislatures, with at least 11 states still issuing drivers’ licenses that are non-compliant with the law. Opponents of the law criticize the REAL ID as a federal power grab and an effort to create a national identification card. Also, privacy advocates have raised concerns about REAL ID’s requirement that all states submit their motor vehicle information to a national database.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, “The Act established minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards. The purposes covered by the Act are: accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and, no sooner than 2016, boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.”
So far, people in non-compliant states have been able to board aircraft and enter federal facilities with their drivers’ licenses due to an exemption.
“However, nine states and several US territories are due to have their exemption expire on January 10, 2016. The states facing a January expiration are Alaska, California, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Washington. Puerto Rico, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands face the same deadline. Minnesota and American Samoa are already listed as non-compliant,” wrote Ars Technica’s Joe Mullin.
He added, “Those states facing the deadline shouldn’t be hopeful for a last-minute reprieve. Local and AP news reports say that DHS has already told officials in Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, and Washington that their requests for additional extensions have been denied.”
The New York Times notes that New Hampshire and Louisiana have also been granted exemptions which are set to expire in June of 2016.
“The federal government has quietly gone around and clubbed states into submission. That’s a pretty heavy club,” said Minnesota State Senator and REAL ID opponent Warren Limmer.
The Department of Homeland Security will reportedly issue a warning to states 120 days in advance of enforcing the rule, which has yet to take place. DHS says that REAL ID enforcement “will begin with a 3-month period where agencies will provide notice to individuals attempting to use driver’s licenses or identification cards from noncompliant states but still allow access.”
If the federal government does not grant an extension to non-compliant states, individuals in those states will soon be required to use a federally-approved ID such as a passport to board an airplane.