Anti-REAL ID Leaders Vow to Press Forward on Repeal

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
July 17, 2008 12:00 am

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PORTLAND, ME – Leaders of the repeal REAL ID effort vowed today that they will press forward and ensure that Maine takes no further steps toward compliance. Their optimism is fueled by the stunning turn-out of 652 volunteers who gathered 24,125 signatures from 398 towns across the state in the grassroots effort to repeal Maine’s REAL ID compliance law.

“Eight out of ten people we asked not only signed our petition, but did so enthusiastically,” stated Kathleen McGee, who submitted the petition to repeal the Real ID law, “We have the support, we simply did not have the time. Mainers understand they were sold a bill of goods, they understand this is outrageous, they understand we will continue to work together to repeal this law, which is contrary to the law already on the books saying we will never comply with Real ID.”

“For over six hundred volunteers to mobilize all across the state in sixty days demonstrates that Mainers care about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights,” said Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. “We are thrilled to see the outpouring of support from Mainers in 398 towns. I hope the Legislature and the Governor are listening.”

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.

“Having to be fingerprinted or undergo facial recognition screening to get a driver license is like something out a bad science fiction movie,” said Zachary Heiden, MCLU Legal Director. “With Maine’s REAL ID compliance law about to go into effect, we are both less free and less secure.”

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.

The legal status and biometrics requirements were only the first step in compliance with the federal REAL ID law. The next compliance deadline is December 2009. It is unclear what aspects of the controversial national identification card program will be mandated at that time. Advocates are particularly concerned about the creation of a centralized database system and requirements for tracking technology on licenses.

The repeal REAL ID coalition will continue to advocate for repeal of Maine’s REAL ID compliance law and will oppose any implementation of biometrics requirements for the license.

At the federal level, efforts continue to convince Senator Susan Collins to allow a repeal of REAL ID to move forward in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on which she is a ranking member.

Representative Tom Allen is the chief sponsor of repeal REAL ID legislation in the House of Representatives.

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