Governor Signs Virginia Law Refusing to Fully Comply with Real ID Act

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
April 2, 2009 12:00 am

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Virginia Joins 21 Other States That Have Denounced Federal Law


Richmond, VA – Virginia Governor Tim Kaine has signed legislation prohibiting the state from complying with provisions of the federal REAL ID Act that compromise the privacy rights of the state’s citizens.

The anti-REAL ID bills were introduced this year by Republican legislators – Delegate Robert G. Marshall (HB 1587) and Senator Ken T. Cuccinelli (SB 1431) – but received overwhelming bipartisan support in the both the House and Senate.

“This is the strongest statement in favor of privacy rights to come out of the Virginia General Assembly in many years,” said Kent Willis, ACLU of Virginia Executive Director and a member of former Governor Mark Warner’s REAL ID Task Force. “REAL ID is a costly, clumsy tool that will likely do little more than create even longer lines at DMVs and expand employment opportunities for identity thieves.”

Passed by Congress in 2005, but still unimplemented, the Real ID Act requires every state to issue a federally-approved driver’s license or similar ID that will become part of a national database. Real IDs will be required to board an airplane and to access many federal facilities.

Since its enactment, Real ID has faced significant pushback in the states. To date, 22 states have passed legislation denouncing the federal initiative. During her January confirmation hearing, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called for a review of Real ID, saying the states were not consulted enough in its creation and that the initiative is a fiscal burden on the states. Before heading up DHS, Napolitano was Governor of Arizona, where she enacted legislation prohibiting her state from complying with the requirements of Real ID.

Because REAL IDs require significantly more background information than a driver’s license, privacy experts fear that the government will now have access to an unprecedented amount of highly sensitive information on citizens and that there will be an exponential rise in identity thefts from the database where the information is stored.

The Virginia law is not an outright rejection of Real ID, but it will prohibit any ID, or database linked to the ID, from containing biometric data (e.g., DNA, fingerprints, or retinal scans) or financial information (e.g., tax returns or personal investment information) that compromise “economic privacy.”

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