Working to close security loopholes identified by the Sept. 11
commission, the U.S. House of Representatives on Oct. 1 passed a
bill that, if approved by the Senate, would reform the process of
issuing state driver’s licenses.

Janna Hutz
Photo illustration by Joel Friedman/Daily

Drafted by Michigan Rep. Candice Miller (R-Harrison Twp.), the
license provision in the reform bill would standardize the process
of getting state identity documents, including driver’s
licenses.

Currently, different states have different requirements for
receiving an ID. For example, Michigan requires that an individual
present three documents, at least one of which must come from a
list of six primary documents. In Minnesota, however, you have to
present just two items, one primary document from a list of 17
acceptable documents, and one secondary document — either
another primary one or a document from a list of eleven others.

Because the bill would standardize the way states confirm
identification, all states would be encouraged to have an effective
system to prevent identity fraud, and make it harder for illegal
aliens to falsify a legal identity.

The bill would also create a “Driver’s License
Agreement,” an interstate database allowing states to share
information on driver’s identity and driving record. The
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators maintains an
interstate database, yet Michigan and Wisconsin are not in the
database.

Sean Moran, legislative director for Miller’s office, said
the bill would allow the Secretary of Homeland Security to
collaborate with the states and come up with an official list of
accepted proofs of residence and identity.

“This bill will allow officials to have a high level of
confidence that this person is who he says he is,” he
said.

Moran said states are not forced to comply with these standards,
but the new bill offers grant incentives to states that comply.

Should a state choose not to comply with the provisions
mentioned in the bill, driver’s licenses issued by that state
would no longer be viable for proof of identification for federal
purposes. For example, if Alabama did not follow the guidelines in
the bill, an Alabama driver’s license would not be sufficient
proof of identity for receiving federal benefits or even boarding
airplanes or trains.

Previously, problems with slack identification requirements in
2001 allowed four Sept. 11 hijackers to obtain driver’s
licenses in Virginia based on falsified information.

Following Sept. 11, many states implemented massive reforms to
correct their system for issuing identification cards.

Moran said the bill is mainly to make sure that all states
uniformly update their systems, saying “a lot of states have
already made tremendous strides to comply with this law, even
though it hasn’t been effected. States are making huge
driver’s license reforms. We want to make sure everyone is
complying.”

Adversaries of the bill, such as the American Civil Liberties
Union, say it will lead to the implementation of a national ID card
which would be a step toward creating a police state. They also
question the responsibility of creating the Driver’s License
Agreement database, saying it would inevitably be used for purposes
other than those originally intended, and that this information
would end up in the hands of credit agencies and private
investigators.

Wendy Wagenheim, communications director for ACLU’s
Michigan branch, said, “Whether or not there is a card
actually issued, the fact is that the government would have a huge
database with information about every (driver) in the United States
… the result of that is the further erosion of
privacy.”

“The Feds do not need to pass a bill requiring states to
do what states should want to do anyway — and that is make
their citizens safe,” Wagenheim said.

But Moran said there are no plans to create a national ID
card.

“Arguments saying this bill would create a national ID
card are simply not true. States already have licenses; all this
legislation is doing is standardizing the criteria to issue these
and standardizing the technology,” he said.

Advocates also say standardizing the database technology would
allow law enforcement across the country to make the highways
safer, ensuring for example, a police officer in South Carolina to
have access to a Minnesota driver’s driving record.

Several documents that Michigan currently accepts as proof of ID
would no longer be viable under the new law. The new law will not
allow any foreign document to count for identification purposes.
Michigan currently accepts foreign driver’s licenses, birth
certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees and passports as
identity verification.

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