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Monday, July 18, 2005

REAL ID Constitutional Challenge?

Newsday/AP:
"It's outrageous to pass this off on the states," said Republican Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, incoming chairman of the National Governors Association. "You're essentially asking the front-line clerks at the DMV to become an INS agent and a law enforcement agent."
and:
"This is going to drive the cost of driver's licenses for ordinary folks through the roof," said Democrat Tom Vilsack of Iowa. "I think it's going to drive people crazy."
and:
"It's a shortsighted, ill-conceived initiative," Richardson said. "We'll challenge it constitutionally."
I looked at the REAL ID bill, and I thought it would prevent a lot of people from getting a new license when they move to a state. You have to show proof of residence. Suppose you are living with someone else and don't have a utility bill, etc? Most banks won't open an account until you show them a license with a current address under that circumstance. I didn't see how that portion of the bill was going to help security, because people will end up keeping their old licenses in their states.

However, the bill says only that people holding licenses from states who don't meet the requirements will not be able to use them for federal identification purposes, so I think it will slide through a constitutional challenge.
This is what you have to include on the license:
(b) Minimum Document Requirements- To meet the requirements of this section, a State shall include, at a minimum, the following information and features on each driver's license and identification card issued to a person by the State:

(1) The person's full legal name.

(2) The person's date of birth.

(3) The person's gender.

(4) The person's driver's license or identification card number.

(5) A digital photograph of the person.

(6) The person's address of principle residence.

(7) The person's signature.

(8) Physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes.

(9) A common machine-readable technology, with defined minimum data elements.
And this is what the state must verify to issue the license:
(1) IN GENERAL- To meet the requirements of this section, a State shall require, at a minimum, presentation and verification of the following information before issuing a driver's license or identification card to a person:

(A) A photo identity document, except that a non-photo identity document is acceptable if it includes both the person's full legal name and date of birth.

(B) Documentation showing the person's date of birth.

(C) Proof of the person's social security account number or verification that the person is not eligible for a social security account number.

(D) Documentation showing the person's name and address of principal residence.

(2) SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS-

(A) IN GENERAL- To meet the requirements of this section, a State shall comply with the minimum standards of this paragraph.

(B) EVIDENCE OF LAWFUL STATUS- A State shall require, before issuing a driver's license or identification card to a person, valid documentary evidence that the person--

(i) is a citizen or national of the United States;

(ii) is an alien lawfully admitted for permanent or temporary residence in the United States;

(iii) has conditional permanent resident status in the United States;

(iv) has an approved application for asylum in the United States or has entered into the United States in refugee status;

(v) has a valid, unexpired nonimmigrant visa or nonimmigrant visa status for entry into the United States;

(vi) has a pending application for asylum in the United States;

(vii) has a pending or approved application for temporary protected status in the United States;

(viii) has approved deferred action status; or

(ix) has a pending application for adjustment of status to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States or conditional permanent resident status in the United States.
States also are only allowed to issue a temporary license for statuses (v) and on. The state is also required to verify all the documents with an issuing authority. States would have to hire tons of new people and invest tons of new money to do this. How can you even verify someone's birth certificate? I know of cases in which such documents were lost in courthouse fires, for heaven's sake!


Comments:
I'll bet that by the time the rules and regs on ID are written, the rules will rival the Tax Code in terms of size and intelligibility.

Our tax dollars not at work.
 
From the frying pan into the fire. It goes to show how much difficulty we incur by not just doing the right thing, biting the bullet, and making the difficult decisions in immigration policy, etc.

In correspondence with a UK friend this seems to be the route advocated by government there, as well. At a proposed cost of about £100 each.
 
SC&A, it definitely involves some regulatory changes for the banks, which is why I have been following it with such interest.

Ilona, you nailed it.

I don't know how many states will do this. The practical difficulties and expenses are such that it would be quite difficult. I can't imagine what it would take to verify proof of residence, birth certificates, etc. And if states refuse to do this, then the onus is put back on the federal government to figure out how to identify people.

I think this was an attempt at backdooring a federal ID, but I don't see how it can work in practice.

As for the UK, I have followed that a bit. They are wanting to have the UK government do it and pay for it by having the people pay for their ID. Is it just to ask poorer people to pay that much?

Sometimes I get an uneasy feeling that our government itself has lost its moorings and is sliding out of control.
 
MOM, the UK has a big heads up, of sorts. Right now, in many cases the NIH card serves as ID.
 
I am not too sure if an identity card really will be introduced... but it's a good way to keep people's minds occupied. Has anyone seen that old British series Yes Minister? They did the whole ID card thing in the early eighties, it being used as a smokescreen or diversion... the name of the episode is The Writing on the Wall... I'm just a little cynical because I find the parallels rather amusing
 
I am also concerned about the impact this will have on the ability to vote. If the cost of getting an ID rises significantly, and states move more toward requiring a drivers license to vote, it may have a disparaging impact on poorer people ability to vote.
 
Dingo - yes, and if you have to do the same steps in verifying for other types of ID, it would hurt everyone.

For heaven's sake, how do you verify all of the documents required anyway? This does not seem feasible to me.

And how long of a wait?
 
Am I missing something? As far as I can tell, you can take care of everything required for an ID if you bring a birth certificate, a social security card, and a phone bill. If you don't have a birth certificate (due to the tragic fires), a photo ID with date of birth (as every photo ID I've ever had contained) suffices -- and you can get duplicate originals from the proper office of vital statistics without too much hassle. I've got 3 photo IDs with my birthdate on it in my wallet right now, as well as my SS card and my Selective Service registration card. A quick trip home for the phone bill, and I'm ready.

What's so hard about that? It's not like you have to compile tax records for ten years or give a blood sample.

And which of the above requirements is not already required by most states? I live in the Banana Republic of Louisiana, and all of the requirements (as well as all of the features of the IDS) are already in place, and have been for years without the cost being outrageous:

http://www.dps.state.la.us/OMV1.nsf/1b2fc6edb63de9b1862564800069f248/037c1c72e5cbc226862564ae006ccdd2?OpenDocument

I'm just not seeing the exorbitant cost to either the states or the individual citizen in these ID requirements. The upside in security is more than worth the few extra minutes in the DMV lines -- as if they're so efficient as it is.
 
It is not always that easy, Boomr, especially now post 9/11. I had quite a hassle getting a copy of my birth certificate 2 years ago. I can't just run down to the Center county records office in Pennsylvania during lunch and you have to fax other forms of ID to them just to get the certificate you need to get your IDs. It also cost me $15. Add that to the costs of a drivers license and it starts to add up. As for phone bills? I don't have a land line. When I was subletting apartments in NY, I didn't have a single bill in my name.
 
Boomr, it really isn't that simple. I know because of the problems with the banks' Customer Identification Procedures which were required by the Patriot Act.

A lot of people don't have bills in their names. A lot of people, to put it bluntly, don't have permanent addresses. These are usually younger people or people in transition. People in group housing may not and nuns, priests etc may not, for example.

Parts of what this act is proposing would probably be rejected as a violation if imposed as voting requirements.

You are also totally ignoring the requirement to verify. You have no flipping idea how many people may be using your social security number. Believe me, it comes up quite often in banking.

A lot will depend on interpretation. How do you verify a birth certificate? A social security number? What happens if it pops up under several names?
 
Dingo: Paying a small service charge for obtaining official copies of records is common in all government offices, and has been for a century. Your $15 and the outrageous hassle of having to fax IDs to them (such penury!) don't really impress me. Obtaining official ID should not be so easy that anyone can do it.

As for phone bills and bills in your name, I know for a fact that you had a cell phone while you were subletting. I know for a fact you have credit cards. Those are both "proof of address."

MoM: People without permanent addresses. Such people can still receive Medicare/Medicaid IDs, which can then be used as one form of ID for a state-issued official ID. And, at the risk of sounding blunt, people without a permanent address usually have bigger problems than obtaining an ID.

People in group housing still have an address (the address of the group home); same for the nuns and priests. I've never yet seen a nun or a priest (and New Orleans has lots of both) who had trouble obtaining ID. If the building where those people live has a municipal address, it can receive mail. Such people may not have bills in their names, but there are other ways to prove residency (such as an affidavit/attestation by the person who owns/runs the home where such people live). This is not a terribly difficult hurdle to jump.

Voting requirements. Don't you have to have at least a mailing address in order to register to vote (otherwise, how would they determine district, ward, etc.)? So how is such residency requirement any harsher than that required to get an ID?

Requirement to verify: The bill outlines ways to confirm SSN: "Confirm with the Social Security Administration a social security account number presented by a person using the full social security account number. In the event that a social security account number is already registered to or associated with another person to which any State has issued a driver's license or identification card, the State shall resolve the discrepancy and take appropriate action."

As for how many people use my SSN, even before I apply for a license, my SSN is being used by hundreds of people (every school I've ever attended, student loan companies, 150 different government agencies, credit bureaus, cable companies, utilities, banks (as you point out), probably even marketing people) everyday. I already have to give my SSN to get a driver's license, just like I do with just about every other "account" I have. A couple of years ago my voter registration card (a one-sided postcard) was mailed to me with my SSN in plain view. Again, if my SSN pops up under more than one name, then I have bigger problems than just obtaining ID.

Other "verification" can be done by computers, which even the helpful civil servants at the DMV can use relatively quickly. The agencies issuing these documents ALREADY have methods in place for "verifying" the authenticity of such documents.

I really don't see the big problem here. It seems your biggest argument is that certain people without permanent residences would be given a hard time in (not prevented from) obtaining ID. I'm sorry, but the lack of a permanent address causes problems in every area of life, not just with obtaining ID, and there are ways to deal with those problems. There is no constitutional provision which requires that it be easy to obtain government documents -- and to be honest, I don't want Mr. Anonymous with "no fixed address" having an easy time getting ID.
 
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