Is Death Coming for REAL ID?

When the Carter-Baker Commission called for a national ID requirement, this call was predicated in part on the idea that the federal REAL ID act would become the national identification standard. It is now becoming clear, according to a story in USA TODAY, that the states are planning to fight back against what they see as a bad law with a big unfunded mandate. As USA Today reports:

Several state legislatures are considering measures opposing a federal law aimed at fighting terrorism by making driver’s licenses harder to get. The Montana House of Representatives expects to vote today on a bill that would make Montana the first state to ignore the Real ID law, which requires states to demand a minimum standard of proof of residency from people seeking driver’s licenses.

The Maine State Legislature last week became the first to approve a resolution urging Congress to overturn the law before it takes effect in May 2008. Only four of 186 Maine lawmakers voted no. Other states with bills: Hawaii, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Vermont and Washington. State Rep. Jim Guest of Missouri, a Republican leading a national coalition against Real ID, said 30 states could pass measures opposing the law.

[O]pponents hope enough states protest or defy the law that Congress will be forced to revise or repeal it. “If one state says no, or another state follows Maine, the whole house of cards collapses,” said Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union. Democratic control of Congress makes repeal more likely than before, Steinhardt said. When Real ID passed the House, 219 Republicans supported it and 152 Democrats opposed.

The law has something for everyone to hate. Republicans and Democrats alike hate the cost, the burden on states, and the privacy concerns.

Critics fear that requiring all licenses to use identical technology for machine reading would lead places that check IDs, such as bars, office buildings and retailers, to increase their use of such scanning machines and create digital records every time a card is swiped. “They could remain and be pieced together to create footprints about where we’ve been and what we’ve done,” said Jim Harper of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C.

State lawmakers also protest the cost. The National Governors Association says it will cost more than $11 billion over five years. Congress, estimating a $100 million cost, provided $40 million.

In short, the REAL ID idea may die a long, slow, horrible death, affecting not just REAL ID but state voter identification as well.