Policy Analysis | January 2009

Southern States' Responses to the Federal REAL ID Act


The REAL ID Act, a part of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, was signed into law on May 11, 2005. The Act requires that state driver's licenses meet specific security requirements for them to be used for official federal purposes, such as identification at federal buildings and for boarding commercial aircraft. Originally intended to prevent terrorism and reduce identity theft, the REAL ID Act has done nothing more than create a financial burden on the states in the form of an unfunded mandate. Seventeen states so far have passed laws or regulations rejecting the REAL ID Act, several in the SLC region. All states have received (some without even asking for it) extensions from the federal Homeland Security Department, giving them until December 31, 2009, to comply with the Act. This action by the HSD essentially leaves the problems with REAL ID unresolved and yet another issue that must be resolved by the upcoming administration.

Further facts:

  • States may obtain a second extension of time until May 10, 2011, to comply if they demonstrated "material compliance", essentially what states are already doing in the issuance of licenses.

  • States may choose not to have their driver's license meet the REAL ID Act's requirements, for reasons of public safety, cost, privacy, or other public policy reasons. Their residents may present alternative documents, such as a passport or military ID, for federal official purposes. However, if a state issues a driver's license that does not satisfy the REAL ID Act's requirements, the license must say on its face that it cannot be accepted.

REAL ID Legislation in the SLC

2006 Policy Position of the Southern Legislative Conference on the REAL ID Act
"Anti-Real ID Legislation in the States." realnightmare.com. ACLU. Web.
Castillo, Juan. "Many states ‐ but not Texas ‐ resist federal ID law." statesman.com. Austin American-Statesman. Web.
"Fact Sheet: Final Real ID Regulations." aclu.org. ACLU. Web.
McCullagh, Declan. "States say no (and yes) to Real ID before May deadline." news.cnet.com. CNET Network. Web.
"REAL ID Rules Expose International System REAL ID Proposed Guidelines: Questions & Answers." legislatorsagainstrealid.com. L.A.R.I. Web.