6 states defy law requiring ID
by Thomas Frank, USA TODAY (12/07)
Six state legislatures are defying a federal
law requiring new driver's licenses that aim to prevent identity
theft, fraud and terrorism.
The states have passed laws in the past
two months, saying the federal law has a steep cost and invades
privacy by requiring 240 million Americans to get highly secure
licenses by 2013. The 9/11 Commission urged the first standards
for licenses to stop fraud and terrorists such as the Sept. 11
hijackers, who lied on residency statements to get licenses and
Lawmakers in Maine, Montana, New Hampshire,
Oklahoma, South Carolina and Washington say new standards would
be expensive to implement and result in a national ID card that
compromises privacy. The National Conference of State Legislatures
estimates that it will cost states more than $11 billion.
State resistance has drawn criticism from
the Homeland Security Department. "I cannot imagine a state
official anywhere that would want to have to testify before Congress
about how their non-compliant licenses contributed to a terrorist
attack," department spokesman Russ Knocke said.
Knocke said the federal government can't
force states to comply. But he said each state's residents are
likely to bring pressure on their local governments when they
learn they'll be barred from boarding airplanes because their
state's licenses don't meet federal standards.
Airline passengers can use other government
photo identification, such as passports and military IDs.
Some lawmakers say any inconvenience is
outweighed by the cost and potential privacy invasion for each
state to create a photo database of license holders.
"The people of New Hampshire are
adamantly opposed to any kind of 'papers-please' society reminiscent
of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia," said Neal Kurk, a
Republican state representative from New Hampshire. "This
is another effort of the federal government to keep track of all
The federal law requires everyone to renew
licenses by 2013 with documents showing their Social Security
number and home address, and that they are in the USA legally.
State Sen. Larry Martin, a Republican from South Carolina, said
the law will overwhelm states by requiring agencies to verify
documents such as birth certificates.
The defiance by six states could force
Congress to reconsider the law, said Barry Steinhardt of the American
Civil Liberties Union. "You can't have a national ID card
if the residents of six states won't have one," Steinhardt