Repeal REAL ID Petition Drive Gears Up for Fourth of July

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
July 1, 2008 12:00 am

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Final Push Sets Signature Return Deadline of Next Week


PORTLAND – Leaders of the drive to Repeal REAL ID announced Wednesday they will be “Defending the Fourth on the Fourth,” by mobilizing hundreds of volunteers for a final push for signatures to repeal the state’s REAL ID law, which violates the privacy rights guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.

“Defending the Fourth on the Fourth” will kick off at a Press Conference Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. on the steps of City Hall on Congress Street in Portland.

“With Independence Day coming, we’d like to assert our independence by repealing REAL ID,” said Kathleen McGee who brought the People’s Veto effort. “There’s nothing more patriotic than upholding the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”

Hundreds of volunteers from Houlton and Calais to Brunswick, Biddeford and Kittery in every county in the state will be collecting Repeal REAL ID signatures over the July 4 weekend. Over 550 volunteers in every county in towns large and small are gathering signatures in this all-volunteer effort. Reports on Primary Day put the repeal effort at a third of the way toward the goal of 55,087 signatures, but most volunteers still have their collections sheets. The Repeal REAL ID Coalition announced that this would be the last major weekend of signature gathering and urged volunteers to return petition sheets to the Maine Civil Liberties Union next week, preferably by July 10.

Additionally, the Repeal REAL ID coalition has established drop-off locations for volunteers to leave their petitions in every county in the state. Signatures must be returned to individual town and city clerks by July 14 for verification. The coalition must then gather signatures from all of the town clerks for delivery to the Secretary of the State by close of business on July 17.

“The Fouth of July is an important time for us to reflect on our Constitutional freedoms, and the protections of the Fourth Amendment concerning the privacy of Americans against unreasonable searches,” said Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. “The REAL ID law paves the way for Maine to have a costly surveillance system that is not only hugely expensive but that government studies have already shown simply won’t work. REAL ID makes us vulnerable to bureaucratic error, identity theft and abuse of power by the government on a grand scale.”

The state’s new REAL ID compliance law was enacted in April after threats from the federal Department of Homeland Security that forced the state to change its driver license process or risk not traveling on airplanes after May 11. The most significant privacy concern is a requirement that the state implement biometrics as a requirement for the driver license. The Department of Public Safety successfully applied for a REAL ID demonstration grant to fund Digimarc facial recognition technology earlier this spring. Civil rights advocates are further concerned that new legal status requirements for the Maine driver license will have a disproportionate impact on the elderly, low income, and other populations whose vital records have been lost.

Advocates are already receiving numerous calls from Mainers living on the Canadian border who were born in Canada and only possess a Canadian birth certificate for example. It is not clear how a Mainer with a Canadian birth certificate or no birth certificate will prove legal status to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Finally, changes made under the REAL ID law are considered by the Department of Homeland Security to be good faith compliance toward implementation of the REAL ID national identification card that would link Mainers’ drivers’ license information into a national data base, making Mainers’ personal information less secure.

“It’s time to bring this home,” said Chris Miller. “There are volunteers circulating petitions all over the state. It’s time for our volunteers to fill up their petition forms and get them to their regional drop points.” Some volunteers will be collecting over the July 12 weekend, but the vast majority of volunteers are in rural areas across the state and are being asked to turn petition sheets into their county drop-off locations.

Earlier this month Arizona became the 20th state to pass anti-REAL ID legislation. Indeed, Arizona’s law, like Maine’s original law, prohibits compliance with the REAL ID Act of 2005. Efforts to repeal the REAL ID at the national level continue. Arizona, Alaska, and Idaho all passed anti-REAL ID legislation this year but were nonetheless granted waivers from the federal program by the Department of Homeland Security. Senator Susan Collins is being lobbied by a wide array of national groups to allow repeal of REAL ID to move forward through her committee. Congressman Tom Allen is the chief sponsor of repeal REAL ID legislation in the House of Representatives.

Organizations supporting the people’s veto of Maine’s REAL ID compliance law include the Maine Council of Churches, Maine Civil Liberties Union, Peace Action Maine, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, and the NAACP Portland Branch.

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