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Real ID Act Gets 'No' Vote In Maine

State Legislature demands a repeal of the 2005 law, citing identity theft vulnerabilities for citizens and an unfair financial burden on states.
Maine is the first state in the nation to reject the Real ID Act, but even Republican lawmakers who support the president's vision of a national identity card are leery of the federal mandate.

Republican Rep. John C. Robinson of Raymond is one of the four Maine lawmakers who voted against a resolution protesting the Real ID Act, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security's jurisdiction. Robinson says he opposes the law but that he didn't want to take a swipe at the last Republican-led Congress and President George W. Bush.

"Frankly, I don't support state mandates, and I certainly don't support federal mandates," he says. "I didn't want any part of a political maneuver taking a swipe at the past Congress and the president. From my standpoint, I wasn't elected to waste the people's time with symbolic gestures."

The Real ID Act aims to link driver's licenses and state identification to a central database, where all states can access information. It also aims to prevent identity crime and improve national security by imposing stricter requirements for obtaining and creating licenses. The act calls for machine-readable technology but doesn't specify the type.

The Maine Legislature passed a joint resolution Thursday demanding the repeal of the law and announcing they were the first state lawmakers in the country to do so. The resolution states that the Real ID Act of 2005 would place an unfair financial burden on states, threaten privacy, and leave citizens vulnerable to identity theft. It also states that the law, scheduled to take effect next year, fails to accomplish its mission of improving security.

Robinson, the only Maine representative who responded to phone calls requesting information about opposition votes, says that a statement from the Maine Civil Liberties Union made it clear the protest wasn't just against the Real ID Act. The Maine Civil Liberties Union issued a news release last week stating that its lawmakers "protest the treatment of the states by the President and the United States Congress."

The group also said it anticipates a "cascade of state refusals" to implement the law. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, lawmakers have filed similar bills in Georgia, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Washington.

A Maine Republican who sponsored the resolution opposing Real ID said that broad support for the resolution indicates opposition isn't based on partisan politics.

"It wouldn't make any sense to implement a program that is opposed by so many people from both sides of the aisle and doesn't seem to have any real benefits for the people of Maine," Scott Lansley, a Republican from Sabattus, said in a prepared statement.

The National Conference of State Legislatures opposes the Real ID Act and estimates it will cost states $11 billion in five years.

Supporters argue that the law would enhance national security by making it harder for terrorists or illegal immigrants to forge licenses or obtain identification fraudulently.