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Saturday, March 25th, 2017Last Update: Friday, February 3rd, 2017 01:39:14 PM

Oklahoma Denied REAL ID Time Extension

By: Constitution Staff

The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (ODPS) announced on October 11 that its request for an extension of time to comply with the federal READ ID Act was denied. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says that since the state has not become compliant with the federal mandate, that starting on January 30, 2017, anyone who does not have a compliant driver license will not be allowed to enter a federal government buildings, facilities, and military bases. They previously announced that beginning on January 22, 2018, a driver license issued by a state that is not in compliance with the REAL ID Act will not be accepted to board a commercial aircraft within the U.S. Other forms of identification, such as a passport would have to be used instead.

Two state legislators intend to run a bill early in the upcoming legislative session which begins in February that they say would bring Oklahoma into immediate compliance with the federal law. State Representatives Leslie Osborn (R-Mustang) and Jon Echols (R-Oklahoma City) said the state is out of time and out of options. Oklahoma passed a law in 2007 that prohibited the ODPS from complying with the federal mandates, citing concerns that citizens’ privacy could be compromised and that the law was an example of federal overreach.

“Last year, the state Senate and state House passed bills out of their respective chambers that would have brought Oklahoma into compliance with the REAL ID Act, but an agreement on language could not be reached,” said Rep. Echols. “Our bill in the House would have not only allowed the state to comply with the federal law, but it also would have implemented real safeguards to protect individuals who reasonably believe that this is a prime example of federal overreach.” Rep. Echols added: “Unfortunately, the federal government is not giving us much of a choice, despite valid concerns that this law is poorly drafted and will have unintended consequences for individual privacy.”

Rep. Osborn noted that they are working with all players involved with the issue. “We are working closely with the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety and the federal Department of Homeland Security to draft language that will comply with the federal law while also protecting Oklahomans. We are confident that early next session we will be able to pass legislation that brings our state into compliance.”

ODPS Commissioner Mike Thompson said: “I am looking forward to working with the Oklahoma Legislature to find a solution to this complex issue. I know together we can do this, and I am optimistic that we can find a solution in order to benefit the people who live and work in Oklahoma.”

Currently, 23 states and Washington D.C. have been deemed by DHS to be fully compliant with the federal requirements. Eight states, including Oklahoma, are “noncompliant” and have not been granted additional time extensions. The other noncompliant states are: Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Washington. Those states oppose requirements in the law that include storing images of documents that driver license applicants present as proof of their identity, such as birth certificates. State officials say that information could be breached or could be used to track law-abiding citizens. The remaining 19 states and several U.S. territories have made enough progress to earn additional time extensions.

The Real ID Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush in May of 2005. The legislation was passed by Congress to address security issues identified by the 9/11 Commission associated with obtaining driver licenses or government-issued identification. The 9/11 hijackers had over 30 forms of identification and 364 aliases among the 19 men. Under the REAL ID Act states were required to reissue more than 240 million driver licenses, starting in 2010.

To implement the law, the DHS issued nearly 300 pages of guidelines for state-issued driver licenses and identification cards, as well as standards for license-issuing facilities. The guidelines require physical features on the licenses, including machine-readable data. Steps are required to verify the identity of driver license applicants, including checks of birth certificates, Social Security numbers and citizenship status. Agencies that issue the IDs must capture digital images of driver identification documents, photograph each person applying for a license in a high-resolution digital format, and store the images electronically in a transferable format that can be shared with other entities. Each state must agree to share its motor vehicle database with all other states. This database must include, at a minimum, all the data printed on the state driver licenses or ID cards, plus drivers’ histories (including motor vehicle violations, suspensions, and points on licenses).

Civil libertarians say the REAL ID Act is a further intrusion of the federal government into citizens’ lives, and raise the specter of a nationwide database of personal information. They are particularly concerned about the provision requiring the state IDs to include high-resolution photos and fingerprints for potential biometric identification.

In 2007, Senate Bill 464 was unanimously passed by the Oklahoma Legislature and signed by Gov. Brad Henry. The legislation says “the state of Oklahoma shall not participate in the implementation of the Real ID Act. The Department of Public Safety is hereby directed not to implement the provisions of the Real ID Act...” The bill further calls for the retrieval of any biometric data previously collected, obtained, or retained and deleting that data from any and all databases that had anything to do with REAL ID. That sounds pretty definitive, and conservatives celebrated a victory.

But, apparently the ODPS proceeded to make Oklahoma driver licenses and IDs compliant with the standards issued under the REAL ID Act. This was explained to potential vendors who received a Request for Information (RFI) application issued by ODPS on March 18, 2010. The RFI was issued when they were seeking a new information technology system for its driver licensing stations. The RFI explained: “Though DPS is prohibited from implementing and complying with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005, Public law no.109-13, DPS is permitted to use the security and biometric features that may also be set forth in the prohibited federal act, so long as the state is not attempting to comply with the federal act, as is the case in issuing an Oklahoma DDL solely under state authority.” In other words, they were implementing the REAL ID requirements, but that is okay since they are not sharing the biometric data outside Oklahoma.

Oklahoma began issuing a new form of driver license in 2012 which meets most of the requirements in the REAL ID Act. This included placing machine-readable data on the back of the cards and shifting the placement of the photo. While there are still compliance issues such as the training of employees issuing licenses to detect fraudulent documents, the critical remaining obstacle is Oklahoma’s unwillingness to share the data with others outside of the state.

Technically, the REAL ID Act does not force the states to comply, nor penalize states by withholding federal funds. But, by requiring compliant IDs in order to enter federal facilities or board commercial aircraft, the law could place public pressure on states to comply.

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