Editor's note: A May deadline looms as just one flash point in a political showdown between Homeland Security and states that oppose Real ID demands. This is the second in a four-part series examining the confrontation.
The nation's capital attracts more than 15 million visitors a year, mostly leisure travelers who often make their way to the city's official visitor center, which is conveniently located downtown in a corner of the Ronald Reagan building.
Or was that inconveniently located? Starting May 11, Americans living in states that don't comply with new federal regulations could be barred from entering Washington D.C.'s visitor center and collecting the complimentary maps and brochures--unless they happen to bring a U.S. passport or military ID with them.
That not-very-welcoming rule is part of a 2005 law called the Real ID Act, which takes effect in just over three months. It says that driver's licenses from states that have not agreed to Real ID mandates from the Department of Homeland Security, or which have not requested a deadline extension, can no longer be used to access "federal facilities."
Because the visitor center is in a government building that checks ID, it might just become off-limits to Americans with licenses or state ID cards from the following noncompliant states: Maine, South Carolina, Montana, Oklahoma, and New Hampshire. Fifteen other states and the District of Columbia have not decided whether to comply or ask for an extension, according to a survey conducted by CNET News.com over the last two weeks, meaning the fate of driver's licenses and state ID cards used by their residents remains uncertain.
This could become be a politically volatile situation for the Bush administration, which has championed Real ID as a way to identify terrorists and criminals--but now faces a groundswell of opposition by state governments, as well as the prospect of inconveniencing millions of otherwise law-abiding Americans at airports and at the entrances of buildings maintained by their own tax dollars. Homeland Security says, laconically, that it "cannot predict how individuals" from those states will be affected.
Starting May 11, unless your home state agrees to comply with the federal Real ID Act or unless it asks for an extension, you might have trouble getting into federal buildings. Click a state below to see what that state has told us about whether or not its ID cards will meet Real ID requirements.
Alabama plans to ask for an extension. "At this point, one option that's being considered is a 'hybrid' approach to Real ID in Alabama, by which the state would offer compliant and noncompliant driver licenses and ID cards. We do plan to ask for an extension."
--Dorris Teague, Public Information/Education Unit, Alabama Department of Public Safety
"Alaska does indeed intend to request an extension to meet the requirements of Real ID. We haven't submitted our extension request yet, but we fully intend to do so in the very near future."
--Whitney Brewster, spokeswoman, Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles
Arizona says that Homeland Security has said the state will "automatically get an extension" because of an existing plan to revamp its licenses, according to Jeanine L'Ecuyer, spokeswoman for Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano. That means its driver's licenses and state ID cards will be treated as Real ID-compliant until December 31, 2009.
But L'Ecuyer added that final compliance is still an open question: "Will Arizona do Real ID? Maybe is the honest answer to that question."
"We have asked for the first extension, but in the extension letter, we say we are not committed to implementing Real ID. We just need time to look at it and evaluate it."
--Mike Munns, assistant revenue commissioner for Arkansas
California reiterated in January 2008 that it has no problems complying with Real ID. Its statement did, however, mention "privacy and funding issues, which continue to be a concern for California."
"We requested and received the extension until 2009, and we expect to be fully on the road to implementing Real ID satisfactorily by that point to get another extension in the future if we need to."
--Mark Couch, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Revenue
Connecticut has not decided whether to comply with Real ID, reject it completely, or request an extension to keep its options open. "We are still studying the issue. (Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Robert Ward) remains supportive of the concept, but no firm decisions have been made."
--Bill Seymour, spokesman for the motor vehicle commissioner.
Delaware has not decided whether to comply with Real ID, reject it completely, or request an extension to keep its options open. "The DMV director and secretary are going to give a briefing to the governor next month, February. Because we've got until the end of March to decide...After they have this meeting with the governor is when we're going to make our official choice."
--Mike Williams, spokesman, Delaware Department of Transportation
Florida has not announced whether it will or will not request an extension. "Thanks to the leadership of our governor, cabinet, and legislature, Florida already provides our citizens a secure and safe driver license and identification card, and we are well postured to incorporate any changes that may be required. We applaud the federal government on their efforts to protect all of our citizens with the implementation of this act."
--Ann Nucatola, public information director, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
Georgia has not decided whether to comply with Real ID, reject it completely, or request an extension to keep its options open. The legislature has approved legislation authorizing the governor to reject Real ID if federal regulations do not "adequately safeguard and restrict use of the information in order to protect the privacy rights" of Georgia residents. "Our legislature has to make that determination within the next few months."
--Susan Sports, public information officer, Georgia Department of Driver Services
Hawaii has filed for and received an extension. "We are moving forward on reviewing the rules and coordinating with the county DMVs to see how the rules can be implemented and coordinated."
--Russell Pang, chief of Media Relations for Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle
"We've asked for an extension, but we still have serious concerns and reservations about it and its future here is to be determined."
--Jon Hanian, spokesman for Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter
"We have every intention to file for an extension."
--Henry Haupt, spokesman for Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White
"We do intend to comply, and we have filed for and received an extension. Over the past couple of years, we've done some security enhancements to our own system that we were going to do regardless of how Real ID rolled out."
--Dennis Rosebrough, spokesman, Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles
"Kansas has obtained authorization for the extension, which gets us out to the end of 2009 and affords us the opportunity to see where we are, negotiate a few different things with our vendor and others. It gives us a little breathing room."
--Carmen Alldritt, director of the division of vehicles, Kansas Department of Revenue
"A Real ID would be an entirely new document. The current KY license would not meet the new standard...Kentucky has asked for the extension."
--Mark Brown, spokesman, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
State officials have not responded to repeated requests for information about Real ID compliance. One bill in the state legislature asks Congress to repeal Real ID, while a response to a DMV survey says that "We believe that Louisiana will meet standards."
Will not comply. "There is currently no effort being undertaken within the state to roll back the public law preventing the secretary from moving in the direction of Real ID. It is a situation where Mainers may face some inconvenience at airports come May 11."
--Don Cookson, spokesman for Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap
Maryland requested a deadline extension. "We're still going through 300 pages of federal guidelines. We're currently evaluating those guidelines and then we'll develop a program that is Real ID-compliant."
--Jack Cahalan, spokesman, Maryland Department of Transportation
"Massachusetts did apply for the waiver and received it. We are basically telling (drivers who call us) that we've gotten the exemption, which means that you are going to show your valid driver's license to get on an airplane just as you have in the past until December 2009."
--Ann Dufresne, spokeswoman, Massachusetts Department of Motor Vehicles.
After December 2009, states can apply for a second extension, but will receive it only if they're taking affirmative steps to comply.
Michigan has not decided whether to comply with Real ID, reject it completely, or request an extension to keep its options open. "At this point, we have not requested a waiver. We're still trying to work out some of the details."
--Kelly Chesney, spokeswoman for Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lyn Land. The state's Web site says: "There are still many unknowns...Michigan law changes will be necessary."
"We did receive a letter from Homeland Security and it said that our extension had been granted, so that would mean that our documents, our driver's licenses, and ID cards, are compliant until December 31, 2009."
--Minnesota Department of Public Safety spokeswoman
No response to repeated inquiries.
No response to repeated inquiries. The state Web site says: "January 11, 2008 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released the final rule establishing minimum security standards for state-issued driver licenses and identification cards. The rule is 284 pages in length. The Missouri Department of Revenue is in the process of reviewing the rules to determine the impact to Missouri."
Montana's legislature has flatly rejected Real ID in a bill that the governor has signed into law. Gov. Brian Schwitzer has called on his colleagues in other states this month to join Montana in opposition to this "major threat to the privacy, constitutional rights, and pocketbooks of ordinary Montanans." Lynn Solomon, a spokeswoman for the Montana attorney general's office, told us: "Right now we're not even sure that the existing Montana law allows us to ask for the extension. We're just sort of sitting tight."
"Nebraska has requested and has been granted an initial extension. That extension does not require you to technically commit to Real ID compliance--it says we need some time, and that's what we said, we need some time. Whether or not Nebraska is ultimately going to be compliant is really for the most part right now in the hands of the legislature."
--Beverly Neth, director, Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles
Nevada has applied for a deadline extension. "Certainly this is something that the governor supports and believes is important, although he believes in some respects it is an unfunded mandate and that the federal government should assist the states with the funding," Melissa Subbotin, spokeswoman for Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, told us.
New Hampshire last year enacted a law that prohibits the state from changing its driver's license and identification card laws to comply with Real ID. It doesn't appear that is going to change. "As it stands now, the only action that has been taken is legislation to keep us out of it. There would be no way that the state could pass amending legislation or undo that within that time frame; it's just not going to happen. I don't see that anything could be done in the intervening time to change it," Jim Van Dongen, spokesman for the New Hampshire Department of Safety, told us.
New Jersey has not decided whether to comply with Real ID, reject it completely, or request an extension to keep its options open. Mike Horan, a spokesman for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, said there are a number of factors that the state is considering, including cost and wait times at the DMV. "Are the Real ID requirements going to add 15 minutes more to a person's wait? Are we going to need a new computer system to manage the requirements? We're in a bit of a fiscal crisis like many states across the country. That's a major concern--there are so many things that are in need of money."
New Mexico has applied for the first deadline extension from the Department of Homeland Security. "We have not made a final decision on whether we are going to implement Real ID or not," said David Harwell, a spokesman for the state department of taxation and revenue, which issues driver's licenses. "We are in the process of studying all of the regulations that were issued by Secretary (Michael) Chertoff several weeks ago."
New York has already received an "unsolicited extension" from the Department of Homeland Security as part of a recent agreement to change its driver license policies, said Jennifer Givner, deputy press secretary for Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
North Carolina said it will request an extension if it's necessary for state residents to travel after May 11, but has not yet done so. "We're feeling that we are on track to follow along the Real ID plan as it is right now. We don't see any situation at this point where our citizens' driver's licenses would be in jeopardy and keeping them out of federal buildings or off of airplanes...Basically we feel like we're in a good place."
--Marge Howell, spokeswoman, North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles
North Dakota has applied for a deadline extension. "Our application is stating that we'd like the extension and we would still like to reserve the opportunity to investigate committing to full implementation," said Linda Butts, deputy director of driver and vehicle services, North Dakota Department of Transportation. "The other thing that's muddying the water is that so many of these rules are long-term and seem to continue to mutate and change a little bit, so that's another thing I think all states are looking at is the cost of implementation. Are these truly going to be the rules in 2015? Will the rules today be the rules that are implemented five, seven years down the road?"
Ohio said this month that it has applied for an extension and was the first state to receive one.
Oklahoma's legislature has approved legislation saying that Real ID "is inimical to the security and well-being of the people of Oklahoma" and, therefore, "the state of Oklahoma shall not participate in the implementation of the Real ID Act." Paul Sund, spokesman for Oklahoma governor's office, told us: "I'm not aware of any repeal efforts, but our legislature does not convene until February 4."
Oregon has requested and received an extension. In the longer term, however, the state may not comply. "Oregon hasn't made a decision for or against compliance with Real ID. But since the final federal rules were released January 10, our legislature is likely to put that on its 2009 agenda."
--David House, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles
Pennsylvania has requested and received an extension. In the longer term, however, the state may not comply. "We're undergoing a comprehensive review of those regulations right now to look at some potential options, the cost that would be involved and also the impact to the citizens of Pennsylvania. Being granted this initial extension just allows us more time to do that and allows the citizens of the commonwealth to continue using their state driver's licenses and IDs through December 31, 2009."
--Danielle Klinger, spokeswoman, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
Rhode Island has applied for and received the first deadline extension from DHS, according to state DMV spokeswoman Gina Zanni. "Our governor supports the Real ID initiative," Zanni told us. "We have applied for part of the grant money that has been made available...we'd sure like some money."
South Carolina has enacted legislation saying the state "shall not participate in the implementation of the federal Real ID Act." Beth Parks, spokeswoman for the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, told us: "Yes, it is true that South Carolina is a non-participatory state for Real ID. The South Carolina legislature is the only entity that can change that position. We are comparing the new regulations to the proposed regulations and our previous cost estimates. Once we have completed our review, we will provide information to South Carolina lawmakers and answer any questions they may have."
"We've applied for an extension and received one, but we have not committed to Real ID yet," said Mitch Krebs, press secretary for South Dakota Gov. Michael Rounds.
"The Department of Safety is conducting a detailed review of the final rules in order to fully evaluate the impact Real ID implementation will have on the citizens of the state of Tennessee. While we anticipate filing an extension, no official request has been signed as of this date.
Keep in mind, an extension request is not necessarily an indication of our intent to comply."
--Mike Browning, spokesman, Tennessee Department of Safety
Texas has not decided whether to comply with Real ID, reject it completely, or request an extension to keep its options open. "We're still reading the fine print." --Tela Mange, spokeswoman, Texas Department of Public Safety
Utah has requested and received a deadline extension. "Our driver's license division is not a policy-making body. It would be up to the legislature and the governor. We are currently going through our legislative session--it just started. That will be one of the topics, whether to go through with it."
--Sgt. Jeff Nigbur, spokesman, Utah Department of Public Safety
"Vermont requested and was granted an extension until December 31, 2009."
--John Zicconi, spokesman, Vermont Agency of Transportation
Virginia has not decided whether to comply with Real ID, reject it completely, or request an extension to keep its options open. "The Virginia DMV is currently reviewing the regulations to determine our next steps."
--Melanie Stokes, spokeswoman, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
Gov. Christine Gregoire signed legislation last year prohibiting the state from implementing Real ID unless the federal government provides funding and greater privacy protections. But, in an apparent effort to avoid inconveniencing state residents in May, Gregoire requested a compliance extension. "By not filing an extension, effective May 11, Washingtonians would have automatically been subject to additional security screenings at airports and federal buildings," Gregoire said in a recent statement. It also said: "I will not allow for confusion and chaos at our busy airports. This extension will allow our residents to continue use of their Washington state driver license or ID card to board planes and enter federal buildings...The federal regulations on Real ID compliance are ambiguous, and I share funding and privacy concerns held by many state legislators."
West Virginia has not decided whether to comply with Real ID, reject it completely, or request an extension to keep its options open. "In West Virginia we are still weighing our options based upon the recent changes to the act's requirements."
--Susan Watkins, spokeswoman, West Virginia Department of Transportation
Wisconsin has not decided whether to comply with Real ID, reject it completely, or request an extension to keep its options open. "We've not made a final determination regarding next steps for Wisconsin as it relates to Real ID," said Patrick Fernan, operations manager for the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles. "We have not requested an extension as of yet."
Wyoming plans to request a deadline extension. "Unless the law for implementation of Real ID is changed in Washington D.C. or our Wyoming Legislature passes legislation not to comply with the Real ID, we will work toward implementation," said Jim O'Connor, support services administrator for the Wyoming Department of Transportation. He added, however: "We are concerned about this unfunded federal mandate and the effect it will have on the people of Wyoming."
The nation's capital has not decided whether to comply with Real ID, reject it completely, or request an extension to keep its options open. "The DC DMV is still deciding on next steps," said public information officer Janis Hazel. "Nothing further to report at this time."
Real ID's scope is surprisingly broad. Jurors could potentially be denied entrance to federal courthouses. So could prospective students visiting the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis or the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Tours of federal buildings such as the Pentagon and the Treasury Department could be affected, as could public hearings, conferences, and even concerts. And some Americans could be denied entrance to the U.S. Capitol building, the iconic heart of the nation's democracy.
"This will help demonstrate directly to federal officials how impossible Real ID is," said Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute, a member of a Homeland Security advisory panel, and a critic of the law. "It'll also make constitutional challenges to the act ripe."
Homeland Security declined to elaborate on exactly how federal agencies and military bases will comply with the 300 pages of regulations released last month. Amy Kudwa, a DHS representative, merely said that agencies will be "prohibited from accepting state-issued driver's licenses or photo ID cards for federal purposes unless states are in compliance with the mandatory minimum standards for Real ID."
To be sure, not all federal buildings demand that visitors show identification to enter (nothing changes if no ID is required). And it's possible that Congress may alter the law before May 11 in response to pressure from irked state officials. One Senate bill would do just that--but it's been stuck in a committee ever since it was introduced in February 2007.
Real ID could affect concerts, hospitals, hearings
Government offices contacted by CNET News.com over the last two weeks were unsure how they will comply with Real ID, which would likely mean handing guards a list of which state driver's licenses to reject. Visitors could present other forms of identification, such as a military ID, a federal employee ID, or U.S. passport, which the State Department says typically takes four to six weeks to obtain. (Less than 30 percent of Americans have U.S. passports, according a National Business Travel Association representative.) Another option is for government offices to simply stop asking for photo ID.
The Ronald Reagan building, home to the DC Chamber of Commerce's Visitor Information Center, is tight-lipped about its Real ID plans. Officials were unable to answer questions about denying non-Real ID visitors access to the center, which features a television showing a video of Pierre L'Enfant's plan for the city and touch-screen computers that print out directions to nearby landmarks. "We actually can't provide any information about that to you," said building representative Jaycie Roberts.
It was a common refrain. "We have not yet determined how it will impact FAA facilities," said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Alison Duquette. "Once we make that determination, we will issue guidance to all FAA facilities well ahead of the May 11 deadline."
Residents of states like California and New York that have agreed to comply with Real ID, or that have requested an extension, should not be affected by the May 11 deadline. But the District of Columbia and 15 other states, including populous ones like Texas, Virginia, and Michigan, have not requested an extension, leaving the ability of their citizens to access federal facilities up in the air.
"We're still reading the fine print," said Tela Mange, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety. Virginia was no more certain. "The Virginia DMV is currently reviewing the regulations to determine our next steps," said Melanie Stokes, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Motor Vehicles.
Other effects of Real ID include:
Social Security: Some Social Security offices are inside federal buildings, which means that Americans trying to replace a Medicare card or apply in person for government benefits could be inconvenienced. "In terms of getting into federal buildings, that wouldn't be something I could answer," said Mark Hinkle, a Social Security Administration spokesman who referred questions to Homeland Security.
Veterans Affairs: Family members and friends visiting patients in Veterans Affairs hospitals could encounter problems. VA says it requests a government-issued photo ID for admission during times of a heightened alert level and isn't sure how to reconcile that requirement with Real ID rules. "The final rules for the law have to be reviewed by VA's legal and policy offices before the department can determine how to implement," Veterans Affairs spokeswoman Josephine Schuda said.
Federal regulations creating a uniform national ID card--called Real ID--take effect on May 11. If your state hasn't agreed in principle to upgrade its driver's licenses to be Real ID-compliant, you could have trouble traveling by air and taking advantage of some government services.
A CNET News.com survey shows that just over half of the states have signed up, while some have flatly refused to participate, typically citing costs or sovereignty worries. Privacy is another concern, with a mandatory barcode on Real ID cards lacking encryption or legal prohibitions against misuse, and mandatory linking of states' motor vehicle databases.
Monday: Real ID could mean real travel headaches
In just over four months, millions of law-abiding Americans could face new hassles when traveling on commercial flights if they hold driver's licenses or ID cards issued by states that haven't agreed to comply with Real ID. Homeland Security is already predicting "delays" and "enhanced security screening" procedures for those Americans in the non-Real ID line at the airport.
Tuesday: Federal buildings become Real ID zones
Everyone from visitors to the U.S. Capitol building to jurors being called to duty in federal courthouses could be affected by Real ID's requirement that noncompliant driver's licenses may not be used to access "federal facilities." Homeland Security says it "cannot predict" how many Americans in non-Real ID states will be inconvenienced.
Wednesday: Religious minorities face Real ID crackdown
Some U.S. states have long allowed citizens with religious objections to avoid having their photograph on driver's licenses. The Amish, Old Order Mennonites, and some Muslim women fall into this category. But licenses without photographs don't comply with Real ID, a rule that could invite a legal challenge.
Thursday: FAQ: How will Real ID affect you?
What are the privacy implications? What happens next? This list of frequently asked questions tries to clear up some of the confusion surrounding the controversial law.
Editors: Michelle Meyers, Desiree Everts
Design: Shaun Charity
Production: Daniel Judd
Survey: Anne Broache
49 commentsJoin the conversation! Add your comment