New Regulations Get an ‘F’ in Solving Problems With Real ID Act, ACLU Scorecard Shows

March 8, 2007 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – An American Civil Liberties Union scorecard analysis of the proposed new federal regulations on the Real ID Act, which was released today, finds that the regulations solve only 9 percent of problems with the legislation that have been identified.

“Some people have been withholding final judgment on Real ID Act pending release of these regulations,” said Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Project. “But the verdict is in: when it comes to the expense, long lines, bureaucratic Catch-22’s, and loss of privacy, Real ID will be a real nightmare.”

The ACLU’s analysis of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations revealed that of the 56 problems identified on the scorecard, the regulations passed 5 (9 percent), scored an incomplete on 9 (16 percent), and failed the rest. An issue was scored as incomplete in cases where DHS noted an issue, but did not offer a solution to fix it.

The proposed regulations were released on March 1 by the DHS. They offer guidance for the states in implementing Real ID, which would federalize state driver’s licenses and the motor vehicles departments that issue them and create the nation’s first-ever de facto national identity card system. In anticipation of the draft regulations, the ACLU earlier made public the blank scorecard; today it issued the actual grades.

“Our analysis shows there’s nothing in these regulations that should slow down Congress from repealing or rewriting Real ID,” said Tim Sparapani, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “We’ve certainly seen that the rebellion against Real ID in the states hasn’t slowed down at all – in fact, it appears to be picking up momentum. Already, since the regulations were introduced, one state has passed an anti-Real ID bill out of its Senate, four states have sent a bill out of committee, and two states have introduced new bills.”

Among the significant problems the ACLU found that the regulations were unable to or did not address were:

  • National identity system. The regulations do nothing to prevent Real ID from becoming a de facto National ID card. They create a vast infrastructure for such a system, including a common machine-readable element and the construction of a national interlinked database. The regulations already require the card to fly or enter a federal facility, and state that Real ID will be considered for an expanding number of other functions.

  • Cost. Real ID requires sweeping changes to state driver’s licenses and the systems by which those licenses are administered. The most authoritative prior estimate of Real ID’s costs was $11 billion. The regulations, however, concede that the price tag for Real ID will come to a whopping $23 billion.

  • ID theft. Because Real ID requires the scanning and storage of birth certificates, social security cards, and many other foundational documents, and because it requires all the states to provide access to an individual’s personal data not only to DMV employees in their state but across the nation, the risk of fraud and identity theft is greatly increased.

  • Increased wait times at DMVs. DHS acknowledges that the regulations will increase wait times and service times at DMVs. They are also likely to degrade service by, for example, making it difficult or impossible for DMVs to offer same-day licenses, Internet and mail transactions, and itinerant field stations and mobile offices.

  • Threat to safety from ‘principal address’ requirement. A number of states have laws that allow judges, police officers, domestic violence victims, or others at risk of retaliatory criminal violence to use agency addresses or P.O. boxes in lieu of their actual residence address. Although DHS partially addresses the issue, the regulations are inadequate and the vulnerability of many domestic violent victims and others will actually be increased.

    “When they released these regulations, DHS made a big fanfare about extending the deadline for Real ID,” said Steinhardt. “But what this scorecard makes extremely clear is that this ill-conceived law that is beyond repair.”

    The scorecard, along with an explanation of each item and the grade assigned, is available at:

    In-depth information about Real ID, including the status of anti-Real ID legislation in the states, is available at:

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