New Hampshire Vote On Quitting Real ID Shows Act's Troubles

May 5, 2006 12:00 am

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Statement of Barry Steinhardt Director, ACLU Technology and Liberty Project

NEW YORK — Last night, the New Hampshire Senate narrowly defeated a measure that would have rejected the Real ID Act. Passage would have seriously disrupted the unified national identity card system that proponents are hoping to create. Nevertheless, while the Real ID Act continues to cling to life, having dodged a bullet in the Granite State, the Act is still deeply troubled and will remain so despite having survived its latest crisis.

It is amazing how this little piece of legislation in tiny New Hampshire became a national (indeed, international) story. It passed the state House of Representatives, and came within 3 votes of passing the Senate, even though Real ID’s backers in Washington brought a lot of pressure to bear on state senators. And this in one of the only two states that were actually getting any money to comply with Real ID (New Hampshire is receiving a $3 million grant – a fraction of its likely costs to comply with the Act).

The pro-freedom forces have been blocked for now, but Real ID continues to have a lot of powerful opponents in New Hampshire, and the door is still open for future action. Opponents of Real ID from across the political spectrum will take heart from how close a broad coalition came to defeating Real ID in New Hampshire; there are of course 49 other states in the Union, any of which could kill this legislation. Many people – from gun owners and privacy advocates to state officials and religious groups – take a very dim view of Real ID, whether because of its frightening implications for privacy, the multi-billion-dollar unfunded mandates it will impose on the states, or the ill-considered and impractical nature of its requirements (as illustrated by the survey of state motor vehicle administrators that was made public in January).

Real ID’s funeral has been averted for the moment, but it remains an unnatural creation of behind-the-scenes maneuvering in Washington, which was never even put up for an up-or-down vote by Congress, and despite the narrow loss, New Hampshire’s legislature has clearly shown just how troubled this measure truly is.

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