Bill Introduced To Repeal Failed Real ID Act

July 31, 2009 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – In a welcome move today, legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives to repeal the discredited Real ID Act of 2005. The REAL ID Repeal and Identification Security Enhancement Act of 2009, introduced by Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN), would repeal Real ID and replace it with the original negotiated rulemaking process passed by Congress as part of the 9/11 Commission recommendations. Twenty-five states have already rejected Real ID, citing its high cost, invasiveness and the bureaucratic hassles it creates for citizens.

“Real ID is essentially dead. It’s time for it to be formally repealed and replaced with a process that works, one that protects civil liberties and license security,” said Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Rep. Cohen took a big step forward by moving to eliminate this failed law and providing much-needed safeguards for our civil liberties.”

The Real ID Act of 2005 directs states to issue a federally-approved driver’s license or other form of ID that would be necessary for airline travel and become part of a national database. Like state governments from coast to coast, the American Civil Liberties Union has long opposed the Act as too invasive, too much red tape and too expensive.

Fifteen states have passed binding legislation prohibiting participation in the Real ID program: Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, Oregon, and Missouri. Ten other states have enacted resolutions in opposition to Real ID: Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota and Tennessee.

Similar to the Akaka-Sununu Senate bill of 2007 and the Allen House bill of 2007, Rep. Cohen’s bill would eliminate most of the requirements that laid the foundation for a National ID card, such as the obligation that all data and systems be standardized. The proposal also requires a collaborative approach, called negotiated rulemaking, which would advise the Department of Homeland Security on how to maximize driver’s license security while minimizing the administrative burden on the states. This approach was initially adopted by the law which implemented the 9/11 Commission recommendations and subsequently repealed by Real ID. Significant privacy protections in the proposal include prohibiting the use of license data by third parties, encryption of the data and adherence to state privacy laws that may provide greater protection. Additionally, Rep. Cohen’s bill would also provide for the establishment of a negotiated rulemaking committee, which would present its recommendations to the Department of Homeland Security.

“States and ordinary Americans have all rejected a National ID card,” said Christopher Calabrese, Counsel for the ACLU Technology and Liberty Project. “Now it’s time for Congress to follow their lead and finally get rid of the Real ID Act by passing Rep. Cohen’s bill.”

To learn more about the Real ID Act or read about its history, visit

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