The act, signed in 2005 as part of an emergency military spending and tsunami relief bill, aims to weave driver’s licenses and state ID cards into a sort of national identification system by May 2008. The law sets baseline criteria for how driver’s licenses will be issued and what information they must contain.
The Department of Homeland Security insists Real ID is an essential weapon in the war on terror, but privacy and civil liberties watchdogs are calling the initiative an overly intrusive measure that smacks of Big Brother.
More than half the nation’s state legislatures have passed or proposed legislation denouncing the plan, and some have penned bills expressly forbidding compliance.
Many states have revolted. The governors of Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Washington have signed bills refusing to comply with the act. Six others have passed bills and/or resolutions expressing opposition, and 15 have similar legislation pending.
“This is not a mandate,” Chertoff said. “A state doesn’t have to do this, but if the state doesn’t have — at the end of the day, at the end of the deadline — Real ID-compliant licenses then the state cannot expect that those licenses will be accepted for federal purposes.”