The Real ID program is a costly unfunded federal mandate that is unlikely to actually enhance national security. Nonetheless, Gov. Mark Sanford should ask for extra time to comply with the require-ments just to buy time and ensure that South Carolinians will not be inconvenienced when they try to board an airplane or enter a federal building.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has given states until March 31 to either comply with the law or file for an extension. If they don't, starting May 11, residents of states that have not acted would be required to show a passport, a military ID or undergo individual screening before they could board a plane. They might also be barred from entering federal buildings, collecting Social Security checks or other activities requiring official identification.
Sanford is one of only four governors who have not requested an extension. And only governors are permitted to make such a request.
Many other states have lodged complaints about the Real ID law. Six states, including South Carolina, have passed laws refusing to comply.
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The states have good reason to oppose this bullying by DHS. In South Carolina alone, if the Real ID plan were implemented, all 3.1 million licensed drivers would have to apply for the new card. Each would have to show up in person and provide an original birth certificate and other documents to prove they are U.S. citizens, confirm their birthdays and prove they live where they say they live.
Each of those customers would have to spend one to two hours waiting in line. And applying for a new ID online would not be an option.
The price tag for this program is a hefty one. DHS has estimated the total cost at $23 billion, of which states would be required to pay $14.6 billion.
While Sanford may be ideologically opposed to cooperating with DHS in any way regarding the Real ID act, he needs to consider the inconvenience caused to residents if the state is not granted an extension. Even if South Carolinians applied today for the federal passport they would need to board a plane, it is unlikely they all would receive one in time to meet the May 11 deadline.
An extension would give state officials time to negotiate with DHS or, working with other states, to persuade Congress to reverse the requirements. While DHS is pressuring states to comply now, it apparently is in no rush to implement the Real ID plan. According to guidelines, the plan would not be fully in place until 2014, which gives states ample opportunity to derail it.
This program is a dud. Not only would it fail to ensure that only citizens get a tamper-proof card, it also might make identity theft easier and make people more vulnerable to bureaucratic mistakes that plague any large-scale record-keeping system.
But the battle against Real ID can be fought another day. For now, Gov. Sanford needs to ask for an extension to ensure that our state driver's licenses can continue to be used as official identification.
Gov. Sanford needs to request more time to comply with Real ID law if only to buy time.
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