I don’t think anyone looks forward to going to the Department of Motor Vehicles, knowing full well that the trip will take at least a few hours out of their day.
But it will only get worse. The REAL ID Act, which slipped through Congress on the back of a military funding bill, pushes the buttons of a number of governors. The act requires states to design their drivers' licenses to meet federal anti-terrorist standards by 2008, including referencing all identification documents (like passports or Social Security cards) against federal databases. TomPaine.com has published about this act before, but it’s still an issue of concern.
The renewed discussion of the legislation was prompted by the National Governor’s Convention in Iowa this week. Governors are starting to squirm under the new requirements that the DMV will have to meet. The new law, which passed in June, goes beyond an earlier measure that sought to standardize state driver's licenses, requiring that states verify that license applicants are American citizens or legal residents.
And you thought the DMV lines were long now.
Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., has spoken out, saying that the act unconstitutionally infringes upon state laws and that there is no doubt that it will be challenged. He points out that New Mexico’s roads are safer since state laws allowed immigrants to get drivers' licenses—and subsequently insurance.
Then there’s the cost factor. These new regulations do not come cheaply. Workers at DMVs will have to be trained on the new databases and procedures; everyone will have to visit the DMV to get the new scanable cards, overloading the already busy departments; and the individual will have to pay for it, in time and money. The estimated costs range to the hundreds of millions. Governors Rendell, D-Pa., and Warner, D-Va., both estimate it could cost $100 million just to enact all of the changes in each of their states. And there’s no indication from the federal government about where that money will come from (only $100 million total has been appropriated by Congress).
Think of it this way. The next time you have to get your driver’s license renewed, you will have to bring four different forms of proof of identification, a book to read while you wait and your checkbook. The new IDs could cost more than $100.
What about the security against terrorists? There's no evidence that the new drivers' licencses will be more tamper-proof than the current ones. Think of all the people you know who had fake IDs in high school and college. Under the new system, it's not going to be any different. The fakes will still be out there, and if an 18-year-old can get a hold of one, you can bet determined terrorists will have no trouble at all.
Oh, and then there's identity theft. A very large percentage of the American population will have all of their personal information stored in one easy-to-use database system. It's a hacker’s dream.
Putting all these complaints together, you get very unhappy states and an unsuspecting public. And no funding to ease the pain. We've got an act that basically winds up creating a national ID card. Maybe we would have been better off coming out and calling it that in the first place.--Lindsay Claiborn Thursday 5:54 PM