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Friday, March 24th, 2017Last Update: Friday, February 3rd, 2017 01:39:14 PM

Oklahoma Receives Deadline Extension for REAL ID

By: Constitution Staff

The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (DPS) recently requested an extension of the state's deadline to comply with the REAL ID Act of 2005. Governor Mary Fallin and the DPS announced in October that Oklahoma had received an extension through October 10, 2016 to meet the requirements in the federal mandate.

Without the extension, Oklahomans with an Oklahoma driver license or other state-issued identification (ID) card might need a second form of identification, such as a passport, to board a commercial airliner. And, the Oklahoma IDs might no longer allow entry into federal buildings where an ID is required.

There are already some places in which the Oklahoma IDs are not valid for entrance. Since April of 2014, you cannot use the state IDs to access the DHS headquarters in Washington D.C., and since July 2014 they were no longer valid for certain restricted areas in federal facilities and nuclear power plants.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security informed the state in a letter that "for the duration of this extension, Federal agencies may accept Oklahoma-issued drivers' licenses and identification cards for official purposes in accordance with the phased enforcement schedule and existing agency policies."

Gov. Fallin said: "This is great news for Oklahomans and means there will be no restrictions on individuals using Oklahoma licenses to fly or access federal buildings through October 10 of next year. In the meantime, I will work this legislative session with the Legislature, DPS, Oklahoma's Congressional delegation and the Department of Homeland Security on a permanent solution."

The Real ID Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush in May of 2005. Currently, Oklahoma is not compliant with the Act due to state legislation passed in 2007.

The REAL ID Act of 2005 was passed by Congress to address security issues identified by the 9/11 Commission associated with obtaining driver licenses or government-issued identification. The 9/11 hijackers had over 30 forms of identification and 364 aliases among the 19 men. Under the REAL ID Act states were required to reissue more than 240 million driver licenses, starting in 2010.

The DHS issued nearly 300 pages of guidelines for state-issued driver licenses and identification cards, as well as standards for license-issuing facilities. The guidelines require physical features on the licenses, including machine-readable data. Steps are required to verify the identity of driver license applicants, including checks of birth certificates, Social Security numbers and citizenship status. Agencies that issue the IDs must capture digital images of driver identification documents, photograph each person applying for a license in a high-resolution digital format, and store the images electronically in a transferable format that can be shared with other entities. Each state must agree to share its motor vehicle database with all other states. This database must include, at a minimum, all the data printed on the state driver licenses or ID cards, plus drivers' histories (including motor vehicle violations, suspensions, and points on licenses).

Civil libertarians say the REAL ID Act is a further intrusion of the federal government into citizens' lives, and raise the specter of a nationwide database of personal information. They are particularly concerned about the provision requiring the state IDs to include high-resolution photos and fingerprints for potential biometric identification.

In 2007, Senate Bill 464 was unanimously passed by the Oklahoma Legislature and was signed by Gov. Brad Henry. The legislation says "the state of Oklahoma shall not participate in the implementation of the Real ID Act. The Department of Public Safety is hereby directed not to implement the provisions of the Real ID Act..." The bill further calls for the retrieval of any biometric data previously collected, obtained, or retained and deleting that data from any and all databases that had anything to do with REAL ID. That sounds pretty definitive, and conservatives celebrated a victory.

But, apparently the Department of Public Safety (DPS) proceeded to make Oklahoma driver licenses and IDs compliant with the standards issued under the REAL ID Act. This was explained to potential vendors who received a Request for Information (RFI) application issued by DPS on March 18, 2010. The RFI was issued when they were seeking a new information technology system for its driver's licensing stations. DPS explained: "Though DPS is prohibited from implementing and complying with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005, Public law no.109-13, DPS is permitted to use the security and biometric features that may also be set forth in the prohibited federal act, so long as the state is not attempting to comply with the federal act, as is the case in issuing an Oklahoma DDL solely under state authority." In other words, they were implementing the REAL ID requirements, but that is okay since they are not sharing the biometric data outside Oklahoma.

The RFI also described the existing system that DPS was seeking to replace. That description includes how DPS was already using facial recognition software to compare the biometric photos collected from driver license applicants. The purpose for the comparison was for identity theft and driver license fraud prevention.

Oklahoma began issuing a new form of driver license in 2012 which meets most of the requirements in the REAL ID Act. This included placing machine-readable data on the back of the cards and shifting the placement of the photo. While there are still compliance issues such as the training of employees issuing licenses to detect fraudulent documents, the critical remaining obstacle is Oklahoma's unwillingness to share the data with others outside of the state.

There are many states that do not currently meet the law's standards, but there are more than a dozen states that actually have laws in effect that bar compliance. In addition to Oklahoma, those states include Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. There have been attempts in several of those states to roll back the ban on compliance with REAL ID.

Technically, the REAL ID Act does not force the states to comply, nor penalize states by withholding federal funds. But, by requiring compliant IDs to board commercial aircraft, the law could place public pressure on states to comply. It is expected that some Oklahoma legislators may use the appearance of public demand to propose the repeal of Oklahoma's law against REAL ID compliance.

State Sen. John Sparks (D-Norman), and Sen. Kay Floyd (D-Oklahoma City), filed legislation October 6 to require Oklahoma compliance with the federal Real ID Act. "This bill will ensure that Oklahoma's driver licenses and identification cards meet the requirements set forth in the Act. This will guarantee Oklahomans are not inconvenienced or at a disadvantage when it comes to dealing with federal agencies, accessing military installations, or, in 2016, boarding a commercial aircraft," said Sparks . "When you think of all the military installations we have in our state, plus the federal courts and social security offices, it is easy to see this will be a huge disruption for Oklahomans who need to access these facilities," Sparks said. "We're not just talking about the military personnel and civilians who work there -- this impacts everyone, from FedEx employees dropping off and picking up packages to the person delivering bread to the commissary. We cannot afford to interrupt day-to-day business at our federal buildings and military installations. We need to solve this problem promptly."

"This is a serious issue that we need to resolve as quickly and efficiently as possible," Floyd said. "By filing this legislation, we can at least ensure that this solution will be on the table when session starts in February, 2016."

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