The Federal Real ID Act Is Coming to NJ

What It Is, Why It’s Back, and Why It Shouldn’t Be New Jersey’s Default Option

The ACLU started challenging the real nightmare of the Real ID Act 13 years ago. Because of privacy and civil rights advocacy, about half of the states initially opted out of the federal mandate, and the government had to change course. Now, in 2018, that revised version of Real ID is close to being fully implemented. Here’s what you need to know.

    • The federal Real ID Act in 2005 imposed strict standards for driver’s licenses across all states. It creates a de facto national ID card with substantial privacy risks. States that only give residents the option of getting a Real ID license would limit the movements of people who cannot qualify for one.
    • To get a driver’s license for federal Real ID Act purposes, you’ll need to hand over documentation verifying your full name, date of birth, address, and proof of Social Security Number or valid immigration status. The government will keep permanent copies in electronic databases, sharing your most sensitive documents – passports, birth certificates, Social Security cards – with law enforcement across the U.S., jeopardizing our security and privacy.
    • The federal government expressly allows states to issue their own IDs for non-federal purposes, like driving. New Jersey has an obligation to its residents – especially those in marginalized groups – to provide an alternative standard, basic license for state purposes as the default option.
    • Ordinary driver’s licenses will no longer be acceptable forms of identification for a small list of functions: boarding a plane or entering secure federal sites. To most people, that’s not worth the risk of letting the federal government store copies of sensitive personal documents in one place.
    • State-issued licenses that don’t comply with Real ID would be acceptable for a range of purposes: registering to vote, going to court, accessing health care – most of the things we use IDs for now.
    • Significant numbers of people – especially marginalized groups – simply can’t produce the documents required for a Real ID Act license. People experiencing homelessness, transgender people, immigrants, older people, students, formerly incarcerated people, and others may not be able to obtain those documents, much less produce them.
    • A driver’s license shouldn’t have to double as a national identity card. People need licenses to show they’re qualified to drive. Using them for federal purposes is secondary.
  • Real ID databases would be a treasure trove for hackers and identity thieves. With advances in technology, that information would be an even bigger target now than in 2005. With near-daily breaches of sensitive databases, including government databases, the public has legitimate cause for concern.

  • New Jersey’s deadline is October 10, 2019, but the public still doesn’t know how information will be stored and, more importantly, protected.

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