NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 10, 2006

In May of last year Congress passed the Real ID Act at the urging of House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R., Wis.).  It was yet another border-security measure, intended to thwart illegal immigration by denying drivers' licenses to undocumented aliens, says the Wall Street Journal. 

According to a new analysis from the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the law is also going to be costly and burdensome:

  • Under Real ID, all 245 million existing holders of drivers' licenses must apply -- in person -- for new, standardized identification cards.
  • The report says that state motor vehicle department staffs will need to be more than doubled, and workers will have to be trained to verify copies of original birth certificates, Social Security cards and the like.

And yes, you can expect longer lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in the future, says the Journal.

"Real ID will reduce efficiencies and increase wait times," according to the report.  "Real ID will also effectively reverse state practices designed to ease an applicant's interaction with motor vehicle agencies (e.g., Internet, mail in renewal, over-the-counter issuance)."  The deadline for compliance is May 2008.  After that, identification from states that don't meet the new national requirements won't be accepted at federal agencies.

State agencies put the total cost of standardizing drivers' licenses at upwards of $11 billion; Congress has so far appropriated all of $40 million.

Source: Editorial, "Real Bad ID," Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2006.

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