Editorial: Let's get Real ID
Living in Pennsylvania could become more difficult soon.
On Jan. 30, 2017, a Pennsylvania driver's license won't be a good enough identification to be allowed onto a military base, into a federal facility or into a nuclear power plant.
A year later, that driver's license won't be sufficient ID to be allowed to board a plane.
Pennsylvania and seven other states have known this day was coming since 2005, when Congress passed the Real ID Act, which developed tougher standards for state driver's licenses and ID cards after the 9-11 hijackers received valid identification from several states.
Among the requirements that eight states have failed to meet are documentation such as Social Security numbers, retaining copies or digital images of applications and source documents, and including approved security markings on driver’s licenses, according to The Associated Press.
PennDOT says it would take 18 to 24 months to get up to speed and fulfill the requirements so Pennsylvania residents could resume using their driver's licenses as their necessary ID.
But PennDOT is stuck between the state Legislature and the federal government.
In 2012, the Legislature decided Pennsylvania wasn't going to comply with the Real ID Act. In fact, they were so dead set against it, the legislators passed Act 38, the Real ID Nonparticipation Act, making it illegal for the governor, PennDOT or any other state agency to participate in the Real ID Act of 2005 or the regulations it produced.
Take that, U.S. government. We're not going to participate in your program to regulate what paperwork people will need to turn in to get a legal ID.
In 2012, the ACLU hailed Act 38 as protecting privacy.
"Real ID is a de facto national ID card and is a disaster for the privacy rights of all Pennsylvanians," said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, according to aclupa.org.
The organization also said it would cost PennDOT $100 million to implement Real ID and $40 million annually to maintain the data.
Besides, many groups said, most states aren't complying with the regulations anyway. The Department of Homeland Security has been handing out extensions for more than a decade as states drag their feet on meeting the requirements. Why would the feds start to crack down?
That line of thinking worked until last week, when the DHS rejected requests from Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Maine and South Carolina for another extension. Minnesota, Missouri and Washington state had already been notified that they were out of compliance with the law.
And now the residents of Pennsylvania are staring at a deadline the state says it can't make.
We understand that there are privacy concerns, that folks worry that there will be a huge database somewhere with everyone's driving records in it, that people are viewing this as a national identification card, that there will be huge lines if everyone has to have their picture taken multiple times when getting a license. (Thanks to RealNightmare.org for ideas on how badly this could go, by the way.)
But then there are those of us in the real world who would like to be able to go into a federal facility if necessary, who might need to go to a military base sometime, who want to be able to fly from BWI to Orlando without having to get a passport in order to be allowed on the plane.
No, Real ID isn't a solution to terrorism. It might not be a solution to anything at all. But it is the U.S. law, and Pennsylvania can't put its collective fingers in its ears and sing in order to ignore it.
Grow up, Legislature. Let PennDOT do what it needs to do to allow residents of the state to continue on with their lives without undue hassle.