The federal REAL ID (Identification) Act of 2005 created a national ID card by requiring state IDs to meet federal specifications. Foes of the act argue that it had serious flaws related to privacy, data security and cost. 15 states have passed bipartisan legislation to bar the enactment of Real ID and another 10 have passed resolutions denouncing the act. The federal government has repeatedly extended the date that states must comply, and many experts predict Real ID may never be fully enacted.
What's Happening in Ohio
Want to fly in 2017? Not unless you have a “REAL ID” or a current passport, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
A REAL ID is a state-issued driver’s license, procured through the recipient’s bureau of motor vehicles, but now specially marked to show its information is federally vetted and approved. The card shows full name, residence, birth date, gender, driver’s license number, a front-facing photo, signature and a special marking that shows all these are associated with a “unique identification number” assigned by the federal government.
Despite pushback from some state governments, it now appears that the Transportation Safety Administration will not accept as valid aircraft-boarding ID any state-issued driver’s license lacking REAL ID features sometime after 2016.
The REAL ID initiative had been dismissed previously due to resistance raised by so many states, organizations, interest groups, and individuals. In fact, over a dozen states actually have made it illegal for their officials to comply with REAL ID regulation.
Chris Calabrese, former Legislative Counsel for the ACLU Legislative Office, said, “If the DHS actually were to implement Real ID [in these states], it would mean denying more than 20 percent of the U.S. population the right to…board airplanes!”
Despite the slow death of the Real ID concept and the refusal of many other states to comply with its requirements, The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles has announced its plan to introduce new “Safe ID” cards by January, 2013.
These cards are designed to be fully compliant with the federal Real ID act. According to the Dayton Daily News, they will cost more, require more documentation to get and take longer to receive, since they will not be given to customers at the BMV, but instead mailed from an “undetermined centralized location.”
Despite the fact that Ohio is currently experiencing serious budget issues, the BMV also told the newspaper they have no estimates on how much more a “Safe ID” will cost to produce or purchase than a traditional ID.
The ACLU has been steadfast in its criticism of Real ID, arguing that it raises serious cost concerns and creates even more serious data security concerns, as the documents required to obtain a Real ID (birth certificate, social security card, etc.) will be stored in a centralized database. This database represents an identity thief’s dream come true and given our government’s history of mismanaging electronics documents, it is unlikely they will be able to adequately protect this information for any length of time.
Theoretically, citizens with non-compliant ID will be unable to board a commercial flight or enter a federal court. In reality, it seems hard to imagine the federal government denying residents of 15 states the right to fly or enter a courthouse. In fact, the government has repeatedly pushed back their compliance deadline, most recently to 2013, mostly because so many states simply refuse to comply.
Read the ACLU briefing paper on how Real ID would impact Ohio.