Maine to verify driver’s license applicant’s biometrics to comply with federal REAL ID rules

Maine’s secretary of state’s office has revealed the design for the state’s new driver’s licenses, Bangor Daily News reports, which are issued with biometric identity verification and therefore compliant with federal REAL ID regulations for use in security processes involving the Department of Homeland Services, such as air travel.

A gold-colored image of the state overlaid with a white star indicates compliance with the federal REAL ID Act. The 9/11 Commission found that terrorists had used fraudulent driver’s licenses to travel, and the Act was passed in 2005 in response to the Commission’s recommendation that minimum standards be set for identification documents, including verification of the individual’s biometrics and legal status at the time of issuance. The full implementation of the Act has been delayed many times, but it is now scheduled to for full enforcement as of October 1, 2020, the National Law Review reports.

According to the Daily News, many states considered the Act overreach on the part of the federal government, and Maine’s State Legislature passed a law to prohib the state from complying with it in 2007 out of concern it would become a de facto internal passport. Homeland Security denied a request from the state to extend its waiver for continued non-compliance in October 2016, meaning Maine residents could not enter military bases or other facilities with driver’s licenses as of January 30, 2017. The state passed new legislation to move toward compliance in April, 2017, and in October, 2018, Homeland Security granted Maine a new waiver.

Extensions were granted to 11 states, including Maine, and two territories to allow individuals to continue using non-REAL ID Act-compliant driver’s licenses for domestic air travel, as well as accessing certain secure buildings such as federal government and nuclear facilities.

Maine’s driver’s license system still allows residents to opt-out of the compliant ID, and an individual who opts out gets a license without the gold image and white star, and must use another document, such as a passport, to access secure facilities or take commercial flights.

The TSA has launched a public awareness campaign to inform people of the new requirements that apply to domestic flights starting next autumn.

Several U.S. states, meanwhile, continue to work towards launching digital driver’s licenses.

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