MCLU Seeks Public Records on REAL ID Waiver

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
April 3, 2008 12:00 am

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CONTACT: Zachary Heiden, 774-5444

PORTLAND – Today, the Maine Civil Liberties Union Foundation filed a public records request with the Office of Governor John E. Baldacci for records relating to the debate over REAL ID. After more than a week of back and forth between the Governor’s Office and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the two parties announced yesterday that Maine was granted a waiver in exchange for promises by the Governor to propose changes to Maine driver license law. Just last year, Governor Baldacci signed into law a statute prohibiting Maine’s participation Real ID.

“Real ID is a threat to Mainers’ privacy, security and pocketbooks,” said Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the MCLU. “The Governor is proposing to trade constitutional rights for convenience, but the people of Maine are counting on the Legislature to stand up for their rights.”

The Portland Press Herald reported today that “[Governor] Baldacci plans to ask the Legislature to ignore that ban rather than repeal it.” (Paul Carrier, Promised changes earn Real ID extension, Portland Press Herald, April 3, 2008, at page A1). The MCLU wants to know what led the Governor to believe that he had the authority to ignore Maine law.

“We’re disappointed that the Governor would consider violating Maine’s REAL ID prohibition – a prohibition that he himself signed into law,” said Zachary Heiden, MCLU Legal Director. “There have been problems in Washington, D.C. with government officials believing they are free to ignore the law when it suits their interest, but we don’t expect that sort of behavior in Maine. What other statutes does the Governor feel free to ignore?”

Under Maine’s Freedom of Access law, the Governor’s Office has five days to respond to the request. The MCLU plans to distribute the records it receives in order to increase public awareness of government operations.

Over the next week, the Maine legislature is expected to debate the Governor’s proposals, debates that are certain to include discussions of data security, privacy, fairness, and taxes. Legislators are expected to assess the long-term consequences of agreeing to Homeland Security demands.

Legislation at the national level is pending to repeal the REAL ID. On the Senate side, Senator Daniel Akaka has been joined by Senator John Sununu (R-NH), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), and Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) in promoting the S. 717. On the House side, Maine Congressman Tom Allen has been joined by 34 co-sponsors on H.R.1117 to repeal the REAL ID and replace it with the joint rulemaking procedures advocated by the 9/11 Commission.

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