Commentary: Real ID Trouble Ahead

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, May 20, 2005

Under the Real ID Act, anyone who wants to get a drivers license in this country or any kind of identification the federal government will recognize to board an airplane, open a bank account or even enter a post office will need to prove they are either citizens of this country or legally entitled to be here.

OK. That's not so novel. You have to prove that now to get a drivers license in California. But Congress took it a step further.

It won't be enough to bring you birth certificate into the local DMV office. You'll need to bring in some sort of photo ID, a social security card, and proof of address as well. And then the clerk at the DMV has to verify all those documents.

Say you were born in Kentucky. The clerk here will have to contact that state to make sure your birth certificate is valid. She'll have to check with social security to make sure that number is right. And finally, she has to check with the utility company, your apartment owner or mortgage lender to prove that you really live where you say you live.

The Real ID Act was pushed through Congress too fast with too little debate. It poses real threats to privacy and presents costly technical challenges that experts warn can't be met.

Congress gave the states three years, and not nearly enough money, to get ready. How dumb is that?



Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.