Montana continues opposition to Real ID Act
In April 2007, Montana took a stand against the Real ID Act and became the first state to pass legislation that rejects implementation of the federal law that establishes national standards for securing the issuance of driver’s licenses. With the deadline for complying with the law set for the end of the year, Montana’s opposition remains firm.
While Montana’s attorney general issued a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2007 stating it would not comply with the act, the rebel state was granted a compliance extension to Dec. 31, 2009, along with every other state, based on the security precautions for issuing driver’s licenses it already had in place. All the same, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer has no plans to reverse the state’s earlier decision. “We’re in the same place [we were two years ago],” Schweitzer Press Secretary Sarah Elliott says.
Montana’s anti-Real ID legislation prohibits the state’s Motor Vehicles Division (MVD) from implementing Real ID Act changes, such as purchasing technology that captures digital images of identity source documents so they can be electronically stored and transferred, and sharing its motor vehicle database with all other states. The legislation also requires the MVD to report to the governor any DHS attempts to force compliance. Several other states have enacted legislation of their own opposing the act.
For many Montanan lawmakers, Real ID is a privacy issue and a violation of state’s rights. Montana legislators claim that Real ID requirements amount to a de facto national identification card and will lead to the creation of a national database on private citizens, claims that are denied on the Real ID Web site. “Montanans, in general, are very independent. We really value our privacy and don’t want the federal government nosing into our lives or tracking our business,” Elliott says.